The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong shankh vs Sangh’s trishul

Bhopal, April 10: When the going gets tough, turn to God. At least, that’s what the Congress is doing in election-bound Madhya Pradesh.

And, more so when the BJP is smiling at its rival’s Bhojshala discomfort.

The party is using one weapon it has in hand — Swami Prasad Lodhi, estranged brother of BJP star campaigner Uma Bharti — in its fight against the BJP.

Lodhi, who has threatened to “expose” his sister, is now reciting the Bhagwad Gita at Digvijay Singh’s ancestral home in Raghogarh, where the chief minister is among scores of people listening to how Lord Krishna tamed the high and the mighty.

On Saturday, Sonia Gandhi, who will be touring Boxwahah in Chattarpur districts, will “bless” Swami and induct him into her party.

While the BJP and Bharti have launched a counter-offensive against Swami, dubbing him a “frustrated person”, local religious leaders sympathetic to the saffron brigade say he is indulging in “anti-Brahminical propaganda”. One of them, Pundit Lakhan Lal Shastri, also challenged his credentials to recite the Gita. Shastri, known as “Bhagwat Bushan”, wondered how Swami could eulogise Krishna for protecting “sister” Draupadi’s honour in Duryodhan’s court when in public life he was doing exactly the opposite.

On its part, the local Congress has slammed Shastri for being “casteist”. Religious preaching, it says, should not be the sole domain of Brahmins.

For the Congress, forced on the back foot after Bhojshala was thrown open to Hindus for worship following a Central order, every overt symbol of religiosity has become vital in its battle against the BJP. Taking the cue from Digvijay, the party is now seeking what sources say is the “hand of God”.

Assembly Speaker Sriniwas Tiwari, known as the “white tiger” of the Rewa region, is busy distributing “shankh” (conch shells) to counter the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s “trishul” (trident) distribution that neighbouring Rajasthan has banned.

According to Tiwari, whose name had figured prominently in allegations relating to large-scale irregularities in electoral rolls in Rewa district, blowing of conch shells would ward off the evil that keeps surfacing every now and then.

With religion becoming a key issue in the conservative and backward state, Congress functionaries say they have every right to organise religious meets like kathas. They said that during “nav-ratras”, it was an acceptable practice to hold such meets.

Some ministers, like Vijaylaxmi Sadho and Chowdhury Rakesh Singh, have even said that their official status could not prevent them from following “dharma”.

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