Taking a cue from the electoral gains from his Narmada Parikrama five years ago, Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh and his party’s Chief Ministerial face in Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath, have yet again embraced the soft Hindutva strategy ahead of the coming Assembly elections, a signal that the grand old party is not willing to let the ruling BJP and Sangh Parivar monopolise the Hindutva agenda or the saffron colour which is considered auspicious by Hindus. The strategy coincides with the party narrowing down on over 100 candidates, including 40 sitting MLAs, for the elections scheduled in November-December. Notably, over 50 sitting Congress legislators, out of a total of 96, are likely to face an uphill task in getting a renomination from the party, sources said.
Adding a touch of Hindutva to his fight against alleged corruption in the state, Nath recently wrote a letter to the Mahakal deity urging him “to rid the people of the state from corruption and crime”. Digvijaya Singh not only walked over 30 km in a Kanwar yatra that culminated in Jabalpur, but also paid obeisance at the Pitambara Peeth in Datia. He has been taking care to sport saffron clothes to add to his messaging to Hindu voters.
Party spokesman in Bhopal, K.K. Mishra, said, “Hindutva is a part of our ethos. We are practising what we have faith in. No party can claim that only its leaders can visit temples.” Meanwhile, the party is taking its time to screen candidates for the upcoming elections. “We are in no hurry to select the candidates. Those who we had to indicate about the possibility of fielding them have been sounded,” said Nath, who is the PCC chief.
On certain voices within the party suggesting that a tribal candidate be projected by the Congress as the next Chief Minister, Nath said, “It is the voters that decide who will be the next Chief Minister. There is no point in speculating on this issue.”
The Congress’ leaning towards the Hindutva agenda is more visible in Nath’s Chhindwara seat where religious guru Dhirendra Shastri, popularly known as Baba Bageshwar, came for a discourse. Another guru Pradeep Mishra is scheduled to visit the constituency in September. The discourses, which are also attended by Congress leaders including Nath, are fast turning into popular platforms for Opposition leaders to connect with Hindu voters.
Just before the 2018 elections, Digvijaya Singh undertook the Narmada Parikarama, a padayatra that helped him infuse confidence among the party cadre. It was his effort that helped the Congress wrest power from the BJP after 15 years. However, the Kamal Nath government that took oath after the party’s victory lasted only 15 months due to differences within its own MLAs.
In a bid to take on the BJP, Digvijaya Singh has been touring the state extensively. In June, he visited five dozen Assembly constituencies, including Khurra, Budhni and Raheli, considered strongholds of the ruling BJP. He also prepared a report for PCC chief Nath on the strategy for unseating the sitting BJP legislators.
During the last elections, the Congress had won 114 seats and with the support of independents formed the state government. However, the friction within the ruling party proved costly for it as a group of 28 legislators close to party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia quit, forcing byelections. The BJP won 19 of the 29 byelections, returning to power after a gap of 15 months.