OPINION | Behan First: Beyond Congress's Soft Hindutva, How Priyanka is Making Inroads Into Crucial Group With UP Tour
Priyanka Gandhi's objective to pursue soft Hindutva is weaved with exploring the space to interact with women as much as possible.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra prays at the Sangam on Monday. (Image: AP)
The tone of Congress campaign for 2019 election has started with the tone of soft Hindutva. This is not the first time we are seeing this, Congress used the same strategy during the campaign of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh election. The visit to Hindu temples and festival places with some of the Sufi Dargah is going to form the central theme of Congress campaign for disseminating symbolic massages. The recent plan of the Priyanka Gandhi tour, which is mapped by the party gives hint in this direction.
The Congress manifesto is going to be quite conscious, alert and calculative in raising the minority issues. They do not want to provide opportunity to the Bharatiya Janata party and its allies. It will also respond to the situation created by Pulwama-Balakot effect by visiting to the houses of martyred soldiers.
Priyanka Gandhi began her first eastern Uttar Pradesh political tour from Prayagraj to Varanasi with stopovers at Sangam ghat, Hanuman temple and other religious places before concluding the journey in Varnasi. The plan was carefully drafted, covering all Hindu places of worship, except one dargah of Hazrat Ismail Chisti in Mirzapur.
She is visiting Shiv temple in Sirasa, Sita Samahit Sthal in Sitamarhi and Shitala Mata temple in Varanasi on her way to Banaras from Prayagraj. There is another strategy in Gandhi's visit to religious places where women come in big numbers. What we observed is that Congress leader's objective to pursue soft Hindutva is weaved with exploring the space to interact with women as much as possible.
Shitala Mata temple is known for huge participation of women. Even Sita Samahit sthal myth is centered on the Ramayana story that Sita entered inside earth at this place. This religious place bear memories of women suffering in patriarchal society. She will also visit Bindhyavasini temple situated in Bindhyanchal. Priyanka Gandhi may also raise local issues related to various parliamentary constituencies situated on this route.
This soft Hindutva tone may be weaved with livelihood questions of artisanal communities who are suffering in this modern path of development. Road shows, meetings, lectures at some places are Priyanka Gandhi's form of campaign during the Ganga Yatra. While taking the water route, she may be able to interact with the villages who are far from main routes, highways and situated in the interior locations.
The soft Hindutva tone of the campaign may certainly not provide the opportunities to the Bharatiya Janata Party to do polarisation politics during 2019 election. However, Congress will raise central issues of the development of minorities in its manifesto but before making any promises to them, party will analyse the risk of polarisation. AK Antony Committee report on Congress Party functioning and performances also suggested that the party should come out of the image carved by BJP as party of Muslim appeasement.
For this soft Hindutva is one of the way to demolish that kind of image. Rahul Gandhi used this method during Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan election. It is realised that this method worked well in these elections. It stopped BJP and its allied organisations to launch polarisation politics against Congress. Even after election, Congress didn’t provide many berths to the Muslims in its ministries formed in various states.
However, the party does not want Muslim voters to feel that it is not pursuing interest of the minority communities. So issues related to the welfare of Muslim community becomes part of its manifesto but in its campaign and in agendas, Congress is also raising issues, which touch the Hindu sentiment.
Congress Party seems to prepare itself to interact with the Hindu mind also. However, BJP and organisations involved in doing Hindutva politics are expert in working of such strategies but Congress by evolving soft Hindutva image is making its space among Hindu communities.
These symbolic acts of visiting religious spaces helps in forging ties with communities concern. But some time it also creates negative mobilizations.
(Badri Narayan is a Social Scientist at GB Pant Social Science Institute in Allahabad. Views are personal.)
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