The campaign will start around mid-September, with a darshan of Lord Shiva at Omkareshwar temple in Khandwa district.
Rahul Gandhi will be renewing his “Shiv bhakt” avatar to fight the upcoming Madhya Pradesh elections, with party sources revealing that a formal election campaign in the state is likely to commence any day from 15 to 20 September with a grand darshan of Lord Shiva at Omkareshwar temple in Khandwa district. At the same time, said sources, some state leaders are adamant that the revered Peetambara Peeth in Datia district was chosen for sounding the poll bugle. The Congress has been out of power in MP since 2003, when Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BJP’s incumbent Chief Minister, ousted the Digvijaya Singh government, notorious for bad roads and erratic power supply during its 10-year long stint.
A senior Bhopal based Congress leader told The Sunday Guardian that soft Hindutva would be the contour of Congress’ election blueprint. “When Rahulji visited Bhopal two months back, you had seen elements of soft Hindutva. The party’s election committee is preparing a strategy modelled after our Gujarat campaign. Rahul Gandhi would be visiting many Hindu shrines, and it is almost certain that the campaign would unfold from either the Omkareshwar temple or the Peetambara Peeth.”
He added that the election committee and Central observers sent by Rahul Gandhi are preparing a campaign themed on farmers’ issues, corruption, and price rise, but there would be a definite pro-Hindu undertone to it. On 6 June, when Gandhi visited Mandsaur to observe the first anniversary of the killing of five protesting farmers by the state police, he had promised loan waivers to farmers within 10 days of his party coming to power.
The source quoted said that the Congress president’s MP tour is likely to begin from the middle of September. “Rahul Gandhi would be starting a two-month long campaign in the state from 15 or 20 September. As of now, a tentative schedule of his road shows and rallies is ready, but is pending for his office’s approval.”
Another source, who is a close aide of former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, said that both Kamal Nath and Scindia have been touring the state, and that Scindia would be covering Jabalpur, Bundelkhand, Vindhya pockets, and Mahakoshal from 5 to 8 September.
On the question of alliances, a source close to Kamal Nath revealed that the BSP, tribal dominated Gondwana Gantantra Party and Samajwadi Party have agreed in principle to join its fold and put up a combined struggle to prevent Chouhan’s fourth term in office. The source, however, said that there is no clarity on seat sharing as of now.
“Our state leaders and our cadre are particular that we contest at least 200 of the state Assembly’s 230 seats, but we are not sure if the three prospective allies—BSP, SP, GGP—would agree to adjust themselves in barely 30 seats,” the source said.
In the last week of July, Mayawati had set a rider for the alliance.
In an official statement issued by the office of the BSP supremo, the party said it would have truck with any likely ally only if it was offered a “respectable number of seats”.
In the 2013 elections, the BSP had polled a respectable 6.29% vote share in the state. It won only four seats, but trounced the Congress’ fate in at least 50 seats, splitting the anti-BJP votes in constituencies bordering Uttar Pradesh and also in the Chambal region, where Dalits make up for 15% of the population.