Bhopal: The Congress party in Madhya Pradesh seems to have found an election victory formula in the form of Soft Hindutva or as many call it Hindutva Lite. The critical concoction which grand party contracted from the arch rival saffron party, worked wonders and brought the Congress back to power in Madhya Pradesh after a hiatus of 15 long years.
In June last year when MP chief minister Kamal Nath was appointed as the state president of the party, no one would have imagined that the temple run of Congress president Rahul Gandhi would extend to Gau Shalas, Gau Mutra, Ram Van Path Gaman tourist circuit, invoking NSA on alleged beef transporters and even setting up an Adhyatm department in the state.
Congress has been slowly working on to snatch the exclusive Hinduwadi tag from the BJP and is now working to set the party ideology away from secularism and Hindutva lite as the new normal, directly targeting the core vote bank of BJP. During the assembly election campaign of 2018, when chief minister Kamal Nath when announced setting up Gau Shalas (cow sheds) in all 22,000 gram Panchayats of state and commercial sale of Gau Mutra (cow urine) the BJP had created a stir as if it were their exclusive issue.
The uproar only backfired and the Congress retaliated with a simple question “Why does it pain BJP if Congress is working for the holy cow?” Somehow this plain logic worked among the voters paving way to victory in assembly elections of 2018 for the party. Since then the party is carefully working on the Hindutva voter base very carefully and at the same time critically avoiding the party’s core ideology of secularism.
The justification of invoking National Security Act on three Muslim youths of Khandwa district who were allegedly involved in cow slaughter, gives sufficient hint of Congress’ strategy. On February 2, the Khandwa police had arrested Azam, Nadeem and Shakeel on charges of cow slaughter. When the youths were booked under NSA, Khandwa superintendent of police Siddharth Bahuguna had said that the action was taken to prevent any outbreak of communal tension. Similarly NSA was also imposed on two youths Mehboob Khan and Rodmal Malviya by police in Agar Malwa district on February 6 for illegal transportation of cows.
Justifying the action, home minister Bala Bachchan had said “The actions will continue if cases of cow killing come to fore.” No official statement from CM Kamal Nath came on the issue but the central leadership of the party had its own reservations on the issue. Former union minister P Chidambaram had disapproved of the NSA action saying the central leadership has sent its message to MP leadership on the issue.
While there was no word on party ideology the Congress led government also announced to send 3,600 pilgrims from different parts of the state to the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj of Uttar Pradesh on government expenses. The announcement was widely circulated and advertisements were released across the state.
The critical avoidance of secularism has left the Muslim legislators Arif Aqueel and Arif Masood seething, who have not been able to express views due to party restrictions. Digvijaya Singh, veteran Congress leader and former chief minister of MP had too disapproved of imposing NSA on the youths, as cow slaughter did not have national security concerns.
Experts believe that the idea behind the new Hindutva normal of the Congress is basic and simple. Unlike Uttar Pradesh, when it comes to Lok Sabha elections there are no major areas in Madhya Pradesh where Muslims constitute majority vote. In MP they comprise of 6 percent of the total population whereas in UP considerable population, 19 percent is registered. As of now there is no sitting member of parliament from Madhya Pradesh, hence a smart investor should know where to invest.
However, as the social media grows, the Congress’s take on Hindutva stands trial before the youth. No other political party such as the left, Samajwadis or Bahujan Samajwadis have considerable presence in MP, and the social media is taking up the intellectual ambivalence of political parties on Hindutva to trial. In their opinion, Hindutva did play a role in benefitting the Congress party but the assembly election results were decided on farmer issues, unemployment and socio-economic issue which too will decide the Lok Sabha.
The BJP on the other hand is silently welcoming the Congress actions before the public but too is huddling for a fresher and stronger tactic on Hindutva for the Lok Sabha elections. For political experts, the political inclination of Madhya Pradesh is to the right even with the change of government after 15 years. They say that in 15-year-long rule, BJP has set a strong narrative for the upcoming generations, so Congress just cannot shrug it off, with elections on top.
It is yet to be seen how BJP is going to counter the Hindutva approach of the rival party and the taken-for-granted approach of the Congress towards Muslims in the general elections of 2019.