As pictures of Madhya Pradesh chief minister aspirant Kamal Nath doing ‘rudra abhishek’, inaugurating temples and even reaching out to seer Dhirendra Shastri in an attempt to counter BJP in the state go viral, the question that lingers is if the soft Hindutva of the Congress will work for it.
Congress leader and a “maverick”, as he calls himself, Mani Shankar Aiyar, while speaking to News18, said: “As a Congress man, when I see both the tendencies of secularism and Hindutva debate, I can see Congress use the Hindutva debate for ideological and pragmatic reasons. This is to win elections. There are many in the Congress who think this is right to do to win elections. I don’t think this is right or practical. How can we present an alternative to the BJP if we are their pale imitation?”
He then went on to give the example of Digvijaya Singh, who had contested elections against Sadhvi Pragya in 2019 but lost. Aiyar said Singh’s attempt to project himself as a Hindutva leader to take on Sadhvi Pragya had not worked.
The reality is that back in 2014, when Congress had lost the Lok Sabha polls, AK Antony was given the task of presenting a report on the cause for the crushing defeat. One of the reasons he gave was that the BJP had successfully built the perception that the Congress was indulging in appeasement of minorities and was anti-Hindu.
The Congress decided to take a leaf out of this report and embark on the path of Hindutva. From projecting Rahul Gandhi as ‘Janeyu Dhaari’ Shiv Bhakt to the many temple visits of both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra, the Congress tried hard to shed its pro-minority tag.
During the Karnataka elections, when Congress’ manifesto sought a ban on Bajrang Dal, BJP unsuccessfully mount the Hanuman narrative. But in battleground Madhya Pradesh, Congress has made it clear it won’t ban the Bajrang Dal.
Aiyar has, true to his style, spoken brazenly and to the discomfort of the top brass of the party. However, he epitomizes and voices the dilemma within the Congress.
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