Madhya Pradesh elections: Congress takes soft-Hindutva approach, brings gaushala, Ram, Narmada in manifesto

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New Delhi | Updated: December 7, 2018 1:06:45 PM

The Congress on Saturday released its manifesto for November 28 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh. With the release of this election document, the Congress seeks to play soft-Hindutva card to woo the Hindu voters who are traditionally seen as the vote bank of the BJP.

Madhya Pradesh electionsMadhya Pradesh elections: Congress takes soft-Hindutva approach, brings gaushala, Ram, Narmada in manifesto

The Congress on Saturday released its manifesto for November 28 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh. With the release of this election document, the Congress seeks to play soft-Hindutva card to woo the Hindu voters who are traditionally seen as the vote bank of the BJP. In its 112-page manifesto titled ‘Vachan Patra’, the party has promised to build gaushalas (cowshed) in every gram panchayat, set up new adhyatmik vibhag (department for spirituality) and opening new Sanskrit schools across the state. Besides, it also has a reference to Lord Ram and Narmada river.

The manifesto was released in Bhopal on Saturday in the presence of Congress state unit president Kamal Nath, party’s state campaign committee chief Jyotiraditya Scindia and former CM Digvijaya Singh.

Also Read: Congress announces second list of 16 candidates in Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh has a total of 5.39 crore voters which includes nearly 90% of the Hindus, thus becoming the favourite for all the political parties. The assembly election this time is very crucial for both the Congress and BJP. The parties know the outcome will have a bearing on the 2019 elections. While the Congress seeks to end its 15 years of exile in Madhya Pradesh and thus toeing the line of Hindutva to counter the BJP’s strategy, the saffron party is bound to campaign more aggressively to keep its vote bank intact.

The Congress manifesto promises to develop the ‘Ram path’ – a mythical route taken by Lord Ram during his 14 years of exile. The Ram Path Gaman will be built from Chitrakoot within the state boundary. Lord Ram has been at the centre of country’s politics for the last three decades with BJP promising a grand Ram temple in its manifesto every time and taking up the issue during every elections.

Also Read: No Modi magic or Shivraj magic in MP, says Jyotiraditya Scindia

“The BJP used to brand us as a Muslim party. It’s a conscious decision to shed that tag thrust on us by our rivals. Earlier, we did not do anything to change the perception,’’ Congress’ manifesto committee chairman Rajendra Singh told The Sunday Express.

Singh, who also is the Deputy Speaker in the Assembly, said that the Congress is not a Muslim party. “We are a secular party. But it’s true that you can’t win elections without taking care of the majority community. We do respect Muslims.”

Taking a soft-Hindutva approach ahead, it says that commercial production of ‘gaumutra’ (cow urine) and ‘kanda’ (cow dung cakes) will be undertaken by the Congress once it is voted to power. It also states that gaushalas will be set up in every village panchayat and proper arrangements will be put in place to take care of injured cows.

Singh said, “When you have a gaushala you will also have dung and urine. Why let it go waste? When gaumutra is purchased for pesticides why not sell it?’’

According to Singh, the Congress government will make a provision of having a separate fund for gaushalas because “we can’t run them on charity”.

The manifesto also promises to amend provisions of the Anti-Cow Slaughter Act. Without providing details, Singh said that cow is a sacred animal and the Congress can’t encourage slaughter at any cost. He, however, said that but legal transportation must be allowed for agriculture purpose because the livelihood of many depends on it.

It also said that new rules will be put in place for freeing temple of encroachment and adding names of priests and mahants to properties of maths and temples.

On conservation of Narmada river, the manifesto states a host of measures including developing religious places along the river at a cost of Rs 1,100 crore and enacting the ‘Maa Narmada Nyas Adhiniyam’.

Since the river is considered holy by the Hindus, it has been at the centre of state politics for a long time. The ruling BJP had earlier organised a ‘Narmada Sewa Yatra’ and senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had undertaken a 3,500 km ‘parikrama’ of the river by foot.

The other promises that the Congress has made includes loan waiver for farmers, halve farmers’ electricity dues, ‘Made-in-MP’ programme to increase industries, make Madhya Pradesh corruption free, bonus on 17 agriculture commodities, closure of Vyapam, free education for girls from school to PhD, Rs 5 bonus on milk, making state free of narcotics, constitution of Vidhan Parishad, new survey for people under ‘below poverty level’ (BPL) category.

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