Bhopal: The Congress seems to have discarded the Nehruvian legacy of secularism and has been aping its political rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in pushing a Hindutva agenda in Madhya Pradesh.
In fact, the ruling party has been on a spree to fulfill all the promises made by the erstwhile BJP government to woo Hindu voters. From constructing a Sita Mata Temple in Sri Lanka, cow protection, Ram Van Gaman Path, to, three-fold jump in priests’ remuneration, the Congress is going all out to project a pro-Hindu image.
In its maiden budget, presented on July 10, the state Finance Minister Tarun Bhanot allocated Rs 1 crore for construction of Sita Mata Temple in Sri Lanka. He also sanctioned Rs 132 crore to set up 1,000 cowsheds across the state. A five-fold hike in grant offered by the state government to cow shed owner, from Rs 3.32 to Rs 20 a day, was also announced.
More so, the government hiked the remuneration of 25,000 priests from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 per month. Rs 22 crore was sanctioned to develop Ram Van Gaman Path – the places where lord Ram spent his days of exile in Madhya Pradesh.
‘Cancel Membership of MLA Who Doesn’t Keep Cow’
Congress leaders didn’t stop there. While speaking in the Assembly, Congress MLA Harddeep Singh Dang suggested that membership of those MLAs who don’t rear cows, should be cancelled.
Participating in budget Dang said cows should be protected and if there was a fund crunch, then Rs 500 should be deducted from the salary of employees who earn over Rs 25,000/month. He also suggested that old and sick cows should be kept separately in gaushalas (cow shelters).
According to the NITI Aayog’s latest report tabled in the Assembly a day before the budget, however, painted a grim picture of the state. Madhya Pradesh ranked 27th in the poverty index, 25th in national health index, and 23rd in education index out of 29 states.
In addition, schemes like MGNERGA (for rural job guarantee) and Anganwadi are almost dysfunctional because the government is running out of funds. The state government has withdrawn a number of previous schemes citing fund crunch. It even showed its inefficiency to pay rent of 26,000 Anganwadi centres, many of which are on the verge of closure. But it is ready to spend on a temple, cows and even renovating ministers’ and MLA bungalows.
Sita Mata Temple
In 2010, the then Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was on a tour to Sri Lanka, had announced construction of a ‘Sita Mata Temple’ here. But it never went beyond the planning stage.
The issue triggered a controversy when Minister for Religious Trusts and Endowments, PC Sharma, claimed on July 15, 2019 that since the BJP had one nothing to build the Sita Mata Temple in Sri Lanka, the Congress would do it after conducting a survey.
The following day, BJP leader and former CM Chouhan tweeted: “Officers of CM Kamal Nath will visit Sri Lanka to verify whether Sita Mata was abducted or not. Noting could be more ridiculous than this.”
He accused the state government of “hurting the sentiments of crores of Hindus by announcing to probe things that are an open truth”.
“The Congress government discontinued several projects started by the BJP government. I urge CM Kamal Nath to take up these projects and complete them at the earliest,” he added.
Chouhan said the necessary permissions had already been obtained from Sri Lankan government and the Centre. Yet, there was no progress on the ground. Later, leader of opposition Gopal Bhargav also raised the issue on July 19, in zero hour.
In reply to former CM and LoP, the minister for Religious Trusts and Endowments, PC Sharma, brushed aside the claims and alleged that the Chouhan government hadn’t done anything about the proposed ‘Sita Mata temple’ even after eight years of announcement and that the Congress government would bring it to fruition.
“What the BJP government and Shivraj Singh Chouhan could not do, the Congress government will. We will fulfill all those commitments. We do not believe in nautanki or announcements. We will survey the projects and complete them before claiming any success,” Sharma said.
Divurumpola — or ‘Place of Oath in Sinhala language — is said to be the place where Lord Rama’s wife Sita underwent ‘Agni Pariksha’. There is an Ashoka tree on a raised platform where her jewellery is said to be buried, and a small shrine. It is one of the most revered places for Hindus in Lanka.
In 2016, the BJP government sent a team to the site — within a Buddhist monastery in Divurumpola, about 15km from Nuwara Eliya, a city in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
Recently, the state government allocated Rs 1 crore for construction of a temple there.
Presenting the annual state Budget on July 10, 2019, Finance Minister Bhanot chanted Sanskrit shlokas, explaining the significance of gau mata (holy cow) in Hindu tradition, and announced Rs 132 crore for constructing1,000 gaushalas.
The Kamal Nath government has become the first Congress government in the country to make budgetary provisions for conservation of cows. It was a manifesto promise ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls. The Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh is the only other state to have done this.
“By starting special projects for conservation of cow, we have done something that hasn’t been done in the last 15 years, Bhanot said, targeting the previous BJP government.
“The project will start at 1,000 places and Rs 132 crore has been allotted from state funds,” he said. The allocation includes funds for 614 private gaushalas, sources said.
When pointed out that UP allocated Rs 600 crore for cows in its budget in February this year, highly placed government sources said, “We have an almost similar amount of money in our hands. A lot of funds will come from the rural development department. This has been done in UP, too.”
The government has provisioned Rs 20 per day per cattle for old gaushalas being managed voluntarily. There are more than 6.92 lakh cattle without home, according to the state animal husbandry department.
Besides, the MP government also floated a tender for Non-Resident Indian private players to open 300 hi-tech cow sheds across the state.
The Ram Van Gaman path
On October 1, 2007 the Chouhan-led BJP government had announced a Ram Path Gaman or tracking the path that Lord Rama took in 11 out of 14 years of exile, which he is said to have spent in the forests of Madhya Pradesh through the districts of Satna, Panna, Shahdol, Jabalpur and Vidisha.
The project was to be led and implemented by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionary and former Union minister of state Anil Madhav Dave. The promise, however, remained unfulfilled and Dave died of a cardiac arrest on May 18, 2017. Thereafter, BJP took no notice of it.
Ram Van Gaman Path is a bigger project than constructing cow sheds. It stretches from Chirtakoot to Amarkantak in MP. There are 10 spots that would be developed under it, including Chitrakoot, Mukharbindu, Sati Anusuiya, Gupt Godavari, Atra Muni Ashram, Birsinghpur, Bisamar Mama, Maihar, Bharbhara Ashram (regarded as central point of India), Gauri Ghat in Jabalpur and Amarkantak. These places and characters will be recreated as described in the Ram Charit Manas.
During the Assembly elections held in November 2018, the Congress had raised the issue and accused BJP for betraying people’s trust. The party, promised to build the path if voted to power.
So, in the state budget, Kamal Nath government has allocated Rs 22 crore for Ram Van Gaman Path, but money required to develop the project, as planned in March after the survey, is over Rs 600 crore. State finance minister Tarun Bhanot said a private firm would develop it on BOT model and proposal in this regard would be brought before the cabinet soon.
A Pujari Kalyan Kosh — welfare fund for priests — has been set up. Their honorarium will go up 300%.
Commenting on the issue, former bureaucrat and social activist Rajendra Kothari said, “The latest report of NITI Aayog showed the mirror to the government that MP is still a ‘Bimaru’ state, but, instead of working on the real issues, the Congress has fallen into BJP’s trap and is busy with its Hindutva agenda. ”