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Congress Goes For A Soft-Hindutva Plank

By Rahil Nora Chopra

Congress is changing tack in its poll strategy for the forthcoming assembly elections, particularly in Gujarat. The party, which has always faced blame for its alleged ‘minority appeasement’, meaning appealing to the Muslim community and playing on their sense of insecurity, seems to have finally realised that the approach has failed to deliver results. The party has now decided to take a page out of the BJP textbook, which in effect would mean a soft hindutva approach. This was evident during vice president Rahul Gandhi’s recent visit to Gujarat and other states. To send this message across, his tour programme included visits to a number of important Hindu temples in Gujarat, including the Dwarka and Chukila shrines. The tour itself kicked off with a visit to Phagwell’s temples. This belt is considered to have a concentration of OBC votes and is therefore considered important. Rahul’s temple visits are meant to counter the BJP propaganda that the Congress party is anti-Hindu. Party circles also highlight the fact that it was during Rajiv Gandhi’s time that the doors of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya were thrown open. A sub note in the Congress campaign in Gujarat is on the theme Vikas pagal ho gaya hai, drawing people’s attention to development going astray under the Modi government, rubbing in the policy blunders such as demonetisation and other arbitrary decisions that have gone terribly wrong.


There is more light now being thrown on RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s strictures against the economic policies of the Modi government, which really set the stage for the current attack against Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine from within the party, spearheaded by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and even Subramanian Swami. It turns out that Bhagwat had received complaints from various Sangh outfits such as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and Swadeshi Jagran Manch about the government’s economic policies. Modi and Shah interacted frequently with the top RSS leadership, but apart from such symbolic gestures, there has not been much substantive action on the ground. The Sangh outfits have in fact chalked up plans to agitate against the policies of the government, which they feel are contrary to the interests that they represent. Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), for instance, has planned to take out a march to the parliament next month to protest against the Narendra Modi government’s policies. The BMS central working committee which met at the RSS headquarters to finalise the proposed November 17 march. Bhagwat during his outburst against the Modi government had subtly voiced the concerns of the Sangh workers that the government was alienating its core constituency by not doing enough for the traders, the informal sector, farmers and the unemployed youth.


Stung by allegations of corruption that are being levelled against party functionaries at different levels, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has ordered that no party worker should bid for government quotas or contracts in the state. Party workers have apparently been forbidden even from visiting police stations or trying to browbeat the police. This has caused resentment among party workers, who definitely want to share the spoils of power and say that they joined the party not just to carry durries and gather crowds for meetings. They also complain about access being denied to the powers that be. In fact, this is a grudge shared by even Yogi’s cabinet colleagues, who often complain of inability to meet with the chief minister. Overall, there is a lot of resentment among the party workers about the manner in which Yogi Adityanath is handling the affairs of the state and some of the leaders have brought this to the attention of party president Amit Shah. They fear that this would get reflected in the results of the municipal elections scheduled for November as well as the by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in December.


NCP is veering round to the possibility of an alliance with the Congress in Gujarat. NCP chief Sharad Pawar recently met senior party leaders and discussed the situation in Gujarat and Maharashtra, where the possibility of Shiv Sena withdrawing its support to the BJP government could prepare the ground for early assembly elections. Sharad Pawar’s reading is that if BJP loses in Gujarat, the Shiv Sena will most probably withdraw its support to the Maharashtra government.


The infighting in Delhi Congress between the factions owing allegiance to Ajay Maken and Sheila Dikshit respectively is continuing unabated and headed for a direct confrontation between the two faction leaders. At a recent meeting of the state Congress, the supporters of Sheila Dixit openly demanded a change in the state party leadership by Ajay Maken. The DPCC meeting was held to pass a resolution authorising the AICC president and the vice president to nominate the president of the Delhi unit. The meeting also passed a resolution seeking vice president Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as the party president. (IPA)

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