At strategy meet, Congress takes up issue of strife in states

NEW DELHI: Amid growing communal conflagrations with allegations that they were being provoked by aggressive religious processions near mosques, Congress on Tuesday discussed the sensitive issue and its implications as part of its ongoing effort to craft a response to the challenges posed by the governing camp.

Sources said the Congress brass looked at the rapid spread of tensions, which started in Madhya Pradesh and have since rocked Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and the national capital. Communal temperatures have also soared in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

It is learnt that the party’s MP unit chief Kamal Nath discussed the clashes in the state with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on her summons, and the subject was also deliberated upon by an internal committee constituted to analyse pollster Prashant Kishor’s campaign suggestions for six election-bound states, besides his 2024 plan. The party panel will submit a report to Sonia for a decision on Kishor’s induction.

Meanwhile, the G-23 dissident leaders are upset at being ignored from the consultations, arguing that they first raised the issue about the party’s revival, but were now being cold shouldered.

With Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel likely to meet Sonia on Wednesday, they may also be asked about the communal developments.

For Congress, religious tensions are a sensitive subject that hit at the heart of its worldview of an inclusive society, but they are also seen as a mobilizational tool of the Hindutva brigade. Many like Nath have stated that they represent an active attempt by the BJP to divert focus from its governance failures like inflation, economy and employment.

Though Congressmen believe that communal tensions are a “political trap”, the sudden spread of clashes nationally and circulation of videos documenting provocations have undercut their counsel for caution. A joint statement, deprecating “communal virus” and questioning PM Narendra Modi’s “silence”, by 13 opposition parties led by the Congress chief, as also her decision to pen an article in the media indicate that the opposition wants to pin the BJP down. Congress is likely to hold a grand brainstorming session — Chintan Shivir — in Rajasthan, possibly in Udaipur, in mid-May. It is being called to hammer out a road map for the party in the wake of its political decline.

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