New Delhi: The Congress is successfully playing the soft Hindutva card in Madhya Pradesh and pushing the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead on the back foot. The Pradesh Congress Committee chief Kamal Nath has decided to play the saffron game of the BJP in the forthcoming Legislative Assembly polls scheduled for later this year.
Under Kamal Nath’s leadership, the Congress seems to be making all the right moves in Madhya Pradesh. While deciding to concentrate on raising only local issues in its attacks on the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, a strategy to appeal to the Hindu community has also been put in place.
Sources stated that the new image of “soft Hindutva” has been taken up to counter the saffron party’s attempts to paint the Congress as anti-Hindu and one doing minority appeasement.
And the process began about a year ago when Kamal Nath set up the party's Dharma Evam Utsav Prakoshta. Headed by preacher Richa Goswami, the unit has been holding paaths of Sunderkand, Bhagavad Katha, Hanuman Chalisa readings and Rudraabhishek on the occasion of important Hindu festivals. And the push for Hindu votes would continue as the cell has been tasked with organizing Sunderkand recitals across Madhya Pradesh.
Interestingly, saffron outfit Bajrang Sena merged with Congress, in the presence of PCC chief Kamal Nath this week, alleging that the BJP had deviated from the path of Hindutva. The Bajrang Sena leaders were once considered close to the BJP and the unit’s merger into the grand old party has seemingly sent a strong message to the Hindutva supporters in the state.
By playing to the saffron supporters’ gallery, the Congress hopes to wrest power from the BJP and ensure that the grand old party is able to secure another major state ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha polls in 2024.
The moves by the grand old party have created a headache for the BJP with just months to go for polls. This has forced Chouhan to announce that the state government will not control any activities of temples, a move that is widely believed to be targeted at the influential Brahmin community and hard-line Hindus in the state.
Confident of a win, Congress set to release its first list soon
The Congress is supremely confident of wresting Madhya Pradesh from the BJP in the Assembly polls scheduled to take place later this year. The grand old party is soon expected to come out with its first list of candidates for the 230 seats in the MP Assembly.
With Kamal Nath in charge, the grand old party has decided to give complete backing to its candidates for the forthcoming assembly polls. Sources stated that the first list of candidates is expected within the next few weeks. This is being done so that these Congress nominees have ample time to prepare for taking on their opponents, sources stated.
The party feels that early finalisation of candidates is expected to help them prepare better for the polls. "This will also give clarity to the local leaders and cadres on working for the official nominees of the party," sources said.
In 2018, the BJP was only able to secure 109 out of 230 seats in the MP Assembly, paving the way for the formation of Kamal Nath-led government after Congress was able to win 114 seats. Though the BJP was later able to engineer a split in the Congress and come back to power.
The grand old party has also been able to keep factionalism at bay with two former chief ministers of Congress Kamal Nath and Digvijaya seemingly reaching an understanding.
With 29 Lok Sabha seats, Madhya Pradesh is a crucial state for both the BJP and Congress. The BJP had secured 27 seats in the 2014 general election while it had bettered its performance and secured 28 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the saffron front hopes to maintain its lead over Congress in the state as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to seek his third consecutive term in 2024 general elections.