The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong dusts caste card

Bhopal, April 21: The Congress is gearing up to marshal its human resources in the four party-ruled, poll-bound states to trigger voting on caste lines.

Madhya Pradesh, home to the disputes over Bhojshala, cow-slaughter ban and Lord Hanuman’s “cake” offering, will be the first to put the strategy into action.

Ashok Gehlot, chief minister of neighbouring Rajasthan, will share the platform with his Madhya Pradesh counterpart, Digvijay Singh, at a “Mali-Saini Samaj” convention in Indore tomorrow.

Congress leaders said the plan to pool the states’ resources was thought up by party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Gehlot has been roped in to strengthen the party’s votebank among backward and other backward classes in Madhya Pradesh. He will travel across the state to address several meetings in Mandsor and Sheopur districts.

In a similar move last month, veteran leader K. Natwar Singh and Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit had addressed a rally of Jats, where they projected the Congress as a “pro-Jat” party.

The chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh have been told to cooperate with each other in a united bid to overcome any anti-incumbency factor in these states, which will go to the polls in November.

In Madhya Pradesh alone, the Congress and its allied organisations are planning over a dozen caste-based meetings to drive home the point that the party alone can protect all castes’ interests.

Returning Gehlot’s gesture, Digvijay, projected as a Thakur leader, will extensively tour Rajasthan, which has a crucial number of Rajput voters who traditionally support the BJP.

The war of words over the “cake” offering to Lord Hanuman in Madhya Pradesh has prompted some letter writing.

Digvijay said he is writing to state BJP leaders, seeking their opinion about Uma Bharti’s demand for a CBI probe into the “cake” incident.

The letter is likely to be addressed to state BJP chief Kailash Joshi and leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Babu Lal Gaur, both of whom are not on the best of terms with Bharti.

A livid Bharti released a letter, addressed to Digvijay, to the media, demanding a CBI probe. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for Madhya Pradesh said the probe would reveal if the “cake” she offered to Lord Hanuman in Chhindwara contained egg or not.

“I am prepared to pay the price if I am at fault. Are you ready to atone for your sins if you are proved to be wrong'” she wrote.

Bharti accused the chief minister of “insulting” Lord Hanuman by trying to project the deity as anti-woman, though he is considered a protector of women’s interests.

She also said it was disgraceful of Digvijay to have tried to tarnish the image of a sadhvi.

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