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'Go to Temple Even Outside Poll Cycle': Congress Divided Over 'Hindu Question'

At the Chintan Shivir, Bhupesh Baghel suggested that Congress leaders should actively take part in Hindu functions.

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An issue that triggered a fierce debate in the Congress' ongoing Chintan Shivir in Udaipur is the question of the party's approach towards Hindu religiosity.

In the party's huddle on political issues, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath both emphasised the need to counter the perception that the Congress has become "distant" from Hindus and ceded the entire Hindu space to the BJP.

This suggestion was supported by several leaders from the Hindi-speaking states, some of whom said that the BJP and the media have been somewhat successful in presenting the Congress as "anti-Hindu".

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Baghel's Suggestion

Baghel is said to have suggested that party leaders should regularly participate in Hindu funcitons and not shy away from publicly asserting one's religiosity.

"Visiting temples shouldn't become only an election-time affair...Leaders should participate in religious functions on a regular basis. Only then can perceptions be changed," Baghel is learnt to have said.

Baghel is known to participate regularly in religious ceremonies and gatherings and publicly carry out rituals as well.

He stresses that public religiousity shouldn't be seen as being antithetical to secularism.

It was also pointed out that the label "soft Hinduva" is inaccurate and a "media creation".

"Following one's own religious practises isn't soft Hindutva," a leader is learnt to have said.

Some leaders said that they see a nuanced difference even between Baghel and Kamal Nath's view.

"Baghel favours a public display of religiosity while also taking a strong line on secularism. Kamal Nath on the other hand seems to be suggesting tactical silence on the latter," a leader observed.

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Response from the South

A section of leaders from Southern states are said to have opposed the suggestion to increase participation in Hindu religious functions.

According to a report in Indian Express, Congress MP from Kerala TN Prathapan stressed in the organisation committee meeting that the Congress should avoid playing on the BJP's field and instead pursue a path of activism against all forms of religious polarisation.

However, on the issue of the Gyanvapi Mosque, the party took a clear stand against any change in status quo.

In response to a question during his press conference on Saturday, former Union Minister P Chidambaram cited the Places of Worship Act 1991 and said that the status of any place of worship shouldn't be changed.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is known to have taken a clear line against playing the religious card in the internal discussions

However, speaking to the media on the sidelines of the Chintan Shivir, Chavan said that there are no divisions as such on the issue.

"Every state has its own set of circumstances. People put forward their view based on the reality of their own states. There's no division as such," Chavan said.

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Rahul Gandhi to Visit Baneshwar Dham in Dungarpur

After the Chintan Shivir ends on 15 May, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are scheduled to address a rally at Baneshwar Dham in Rajasthan's Dungarpur district on Monday, 16 May.

Rahul Gandhi is expected to visit Baneshwar Dham temple that is a prominent place of worship for Adivasis in Southern Rajasthan, Western Madhya Pradesh and parts of Gujarat.

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Topics:  BJP   Congress   Rahul Gandhi 

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