The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay drags Gandhi into Hindutva battle

Bhopal, June 25: Was the Hindutva of Tilak and Gandhi soft'

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh’s poser is set to sharply divide the Congress when it meets in Shimla for a three-day brainstorming session from July 7.

The party’s longest-serving chief minister in the Hindi heartland has sought to counter veteran leader Arjun Singh who had questioned the strategy for the Gujarat elections, which the Congress lost. One of the reasons for the defeat was attributed to the soft Hindutva line the party is said to have adopted.

After the polls, at a working committee meeting on January 4, Arjun Singh had said any deviation from Nehruvian socialism would boomerang, a view likely to be reflected in the party’s political position paper for the Shimla meet.

In an article today, Digvijay put forward what he said was his party’s “own agenda” and blamed the “communists” for creating the impression that the Congress’ definition of secularism was “irreligion”. “We are a nation of believers,” he said. “The Congress is not supposed to follow the agenda of the communists. We have our own agenda.”

The chief minister picked examples from history to back his argument. “Congressmen like Bal Gangadhar Tilak in (the) freedom movement used Ganesh Utsav to mobilise masses; Mahatma Gandhi always used religion to mobilise people…. Would you call it soft Hindutva'” he asked. “This is not soft Hindutva, we are a nation of believers.”

Taking a dig at Indian communists and their fellow travellers, Digvijay accused them of double standards. “Hiren Mukherjee was a CPI leader and MP from Kanpur for a very long time. But when his daughter got married, he performed all marriage ceremonies as per Bengali Brahmin traditions.”

When people asked Mukherjee why he was doing this, the CPI leader, Digvijay said, replied: “Yes, I am a communist but my family is not....”

The chief minister then moved on to the topic that has been generating a lot of heat — cow slaughter. He said the Congress has never opposed a ban on cow slaughter in Parliament. “The Congress never opposed it. It simply said it is a state-specific subject under the Constitution, so it should be left to the state,” Digvijay pointed out.

“(The) Congress has been a supporter of a ban on cow slaughter since 1920s. In this country, 18 states have Acts which ban cow slaughter and most of them when they passed these Bills were Congress governments.”

Digvijay, however, made it clear that he was not using religion to attract votes. “As a member of the Congress party, Digvijay Singh shall never use religion for political purpose,” he said, accusing the BJP, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal of fomenting communal trouble.

“The VHP wants to built a temple where there is a dispute. The BJP is not interested in building temples, they are not interested in religion, they are only interested in creating Hindu-Muslim disputes so that their brand of Hinduism gets respectability and they can treat Muslims as anti-nationals.”

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