The Congress’ state unit in Madhya Pradesh is facing an internal turmoil in the wake of a Hindu Mahasabha leader joining the party. The inner squabble is a shot in the arm for the BJP ahead of the civic body polls in the state, which are slated to be held in the coming months.
Party leaders who have opposed state Congress president Kamal Nath’s decision to allow the entry of Babulal Chaursia to the party fold have questioned if the Congress has compromised with its principles to welcome those following Godse’s ideology.
The state unit of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, commonly known as Hindu Mahasabha, has its head office in Gwalior. It continues to portray Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, as a patriot and holds programmes on his birth and death anniversaries.
In November 2017, the state unit even set up a Godse temple in its office in Gwalior installing a bust of the Hindu nationalist there. The bust, however, had to be removed after the Congress protested against it and the district administration took cognizance of the matter.
So, it came as a shocking surprise for several Congressmen, when corporator from ward no. 44 of Gwalior city and Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha leader Babulal Chaursia joined the Congress in presence of state Congress president Kamal Nath on last Wednesday. Chaursia had switched over to the Hindu Mahasabha from Congress ahead of the Gwalior municipal corporation election in 2015.
Former state Congress president Arun Yadav was the first to raise his voice against Chuarsia’s ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming). Yadav who has been a minister of state in the then UPA government at the Centre, even penned an open letter which he shared on Twitter. “Being a true soldier of Congress dedicated to Gandhi ideology I can’t remain a mute spectator. My ideological fight is not against any individual person but it’s dedicated to the Congress party’s ideology. For this, I am ready to face any consequences politically,” he wrote.
Yadav asked if Congress would accept BJP MP from Bhopal Pragya Thakur who had called Godse a patriot, if she is willing to join the party.
Former MPs Meenakshi Natrajan and Laxman Singh, former state Congress media in-charge Manak Agrawal and certain other leaders too joined the chorus of protest.
The disgruntlement of party members over the new recruitment, threatens a division in the state Congress – from the top leaders to grassroots workers – just ahead of the civic body elections in the state and assembly polls in four states and a Union territory.
On Sunday evening, a section of party workers in Gwalior ‘purified’ Mahatma Gandhi’s statue by sprinkling Ganga water on it, three days after Chaursia garlanded the statue and paid tributes to the Father of the Nation after joining the Congress.
Rupesh Yadav, the Congress worker leading the protest told the media persons that they would continue to protest against Chaursia’s induction till he remains in the party.
The protesters draw strength from a video clip doing the rounds in social media in which Chaursia is seen along with other Hindu Mahasabha leaders performing Aarti before the bust of Godse in the organisation’s office in Gwalior.
“Kamal Nath ji must make it clear if he is with Godse ideology or Gandhi ideology,” Manak Agrawal asked in a tweet.
When contacted Agrawal said, “We have communicated everything to the party high command. We can’t accept Godse ideology. Such decisions will weaken the party.”
Political observer Dinesh Gupta said, “If the party doesn’t take a corrective stand, the BJP may raise the issue in civic body elections in Madhya Pradesh and state legislative assembly elections in others where Congress might be projected as siding with Godse followers.”
While the Congress has issued a warning to those opposing the party decision to induct Chaursia, the latter when asked by journalists, said he was made to worship Godse as a part of a conspiracy hatched against him.
Talking to media persons Chaursia sad, “I was with the Congress right from the day I gained consciousness of self and continued to follow its ideology. You can call my joining the Hindu Mahasabha a compulsion. But there was conspiracy against me. I was taken to (Hindu Mahasabha) office from the railway station and not allowed to go home when I was denied ticket (by Congress party). I was surrounded by people and trapped. I was made to fill the form of civic body election. There was tremendous pressure on me. I realised my mistake when there was slogan shouting.”
“When there is change of heart even a dacoit becomes a saint whereas I am a normal human being,” he added.
Despite the dissent, Kamal Nath has found support from the party in leaders like former ministers Sajjan Singh Verma, Jitu Patwari and PC Sharma.
Verma said, “It should be seen as an impact of Gandhi ideology that a man following Godse has joined the Congress.”
“Gandhi ji’s philosophy is we should hate crimes, not the criminal,” said Patwari.
State BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said, “Congress stands exposed. It stands with Godse, not Gandhi. It has been using Gandhi name for decades just for its political advantage.”
Though Kamal Nath has chosen not to react on the protest so far, his media coordinator Narendra Saluja said, “Show cause notices will be issued to those who have chosen to raise their voice in public against the party decision. Such indiscipline can’t be tolerated. The party’s stand is very clear. The person who has joined the Congress himself has spoken against Godse’s ideology and expressed his faith in Gandhi ideology and the principles of the Congress. He was in Congress for a long time. He left it a few years back due to some circumstances.”