Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president Kamal Nath on Saturday said that the first joint rally of the Opposition’s Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc in Bhopal has been cancelled.
The rally was to be held in October ahead of the state Assembly elections.
The announcement comes just days after the first INDIA bloc Coordination Committee meeting at Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in Delhi.
According to a senior party leader, the decision to cancel the rally was taken as the Sanatana Dharma row between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) escalated.
“The state leaders requested the All Indian Congress Committee president (Mallikarjun Kharge) to change the venue of the rally from Madhya Pradesh as they don’t want any diversion from the state issues. The leaders in MP conveyed that they want to fight the election based on issues like corruption, unemployment and inflation but the joint rally of INDIA block can divert it.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged in Madhya Pradesh that the INDIA bloc’s hidden agenda is to destroy Sanatana Dharma, the Congress tried to distance itself from the controversy triggered by its ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and said there was no discussion on the issue in its working committee meeting.
According to another senior party leader, the MP Congress Committee political advisors had said that the BJP could take advantage of the Sanatana Dharma row at the time of assembly elections if the DMK leaders attend the rally
Pressure has been mounting on the Congress over the Sanatana Dharma issue after Tamil Nadu minister Udhayanidhi Stalin compared it with malaria and called for its eradication.
Reacting to the development, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also said that the rally was cancelled due to the “public anger” over Sanatana Dharma remarks by Stalin.
“The people of MP will not tolerate this insult to Sanatana. Understand that our faith has been attacked. This attack will not be tolerated at any cost. There is public anger, hence the rally was cancelled. People will not let this go,” Chouhan said.
Meanwhile, Nath on Saturday accused the BJP of creating a controversy to divert attention from real issues and said that a majority of people in India follow the Sanatan Dharma.
Addressing a press conference with AICC in-charge for Madhya Pradesh Randeep Singh Surjewala, Nath claimed the BJP is trying to divert from the real issue.
Just like in 2019, they made ‘Rashtrawad’ and ‘surgical strike’ an issue, now they are making ‘Sanatan Dharma’ an issue to change the agenda, divert the people from real issues and create controversy, Nath said.
Nath also alleged the BJP was trying to change the narrative and issues as if they had taken a contract of religion.
“They feel stomach ache when I hold religious programmes in Chhindwara (Nath’s home turf). We go to temples but don’t talk about it on political platforms,” the former chief minister said. We never brought religion into politics like them,” said the former chief minister.
He continued, that the BJP would try to divert the attention of people and only talk about Sanatan Dharma in the next three months, ahead of assembly elections.
The Madhya Congress Committee is set to organise seven Jan Akrosh Yatra in the state to cover 219 state assembly constituencies from Ganesh Chaturthi i.e., from September 19.
Congress said the Yatra is being held to ‘give voice to people’s anger against the BJP government’.
The 15-20 days yatras will cover a 12,000 km distance and will be one of the factors to finalise the name of the candidates for the upcoming election, Surjewala said on Saturday.
Surjewala also announced that Nath will be the chief minister’s face of Congress in the upcoming assembly election.
Nath said the Yatra is being organised to gather public support on “corruption, inflation, and atrocities against women, Dalit and tribal”.
The INDIA bloc had decided to hold their first joint public meeting in Bhopal in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh in the first week of October and said the constituent parties would start seat-sharing talks at the earliest.
(with agency inputs)