Madhya Pradesh’s new Congress ally: Bajrang Sena 2023

A bhagva (saffron) rally steadily approached Indira Bhavan, the Madhya Pradesh Congress state office, while drums beat louder. Kamal Nath welcomed them.

Kamal Nath’s fans chanted his name as he spoke, his voice hoarse from campaigning in Mandsaur district. “Jai Shri Ram” was his next choice once they died down.

After reciting Hanuman Chalisa, the Hindutva-supporting Bajrang Sena joined the Congress.

Under Kamal Nath, the Congress has unambiguously moved to the right. The soft Hindutva, which went farther than most Congress initiatives, started as a way to deflect BJP claims that the party was anti-Hindu and is now strong enough to make the BJP take note.

Kamal Nath began by portraying himself as a Hanuman bhakt, holding religious events centered around the Lord Ram devotee, setting up a massive Hanuman idol on his political turf Chhindwara, and even courting controversy when he cut a temple-shaped cake with Hanuman’s portrait on it on his birthday last November.

On June 6, the Bajrang Sena merged. The Hindutva group’s goals—protecting cows and Hindu saints, building gaushalas, and paying temple priests monthly—match the Congress’s current promises.

Bajrang Sena is Congress’s new friend in Madhya Pradesh

Deepak Joshi, a former BJP politician whose father Kailash Joshi led a BJP administration in MP, led the organization’s transition into the Congress. Deepak joined the Congress in May after feeling ignored by the state BJP.

His new party saw his “value” in less than a month. Joshi claims he met with the Bajrang Sena multiple times to encourage them to join the Congress, stressing them the party shared their ideological goals.

Ranveer Pateria, Bajrang Sena national president, said they campaigned for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath last year for his second term and for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Bajrang Sena, founded 10 years ago in Chhatarpur district, Bundelkhand, has chapters in over 12 states and several lakh members. Pateria founded it. For present, only Madhya Pradesh is merged.

Pateria recalls, “They did not like what I was doing. While they were constrained to their leader-approved programs, I organized hundreds of bike rallies. They begged me to obey the organization, so I gave up.”

He says he founded the Bajrang Sena after meeting Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, president of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust (for building the Ram temple in Ayodhya).

Since then, bike rallies, cow protection campaigns, and a Kama Sutra demonstration outside Khajuraho shrine have attracted new recruits.

In 2018, senior politician Raghunandan Sharma, one of the founding BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh, who led the BJP Yuva Morcha, joined the Bajrang Sena.

Sharma informed The Indian Express that BJP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan was a Yuva Morcha friend. “We rode motorcycles around the state, helping the BJP grow in districts.”

He quit the BJP due to disagreements with the state leadership, especially over the SC/ST Atrocities Act. Sharma said the party blamed him for their 2018 Assembly election loss.

Madhya Pradesh protested the Chouhan government’s SC/ST Act dilution

The Bajrang Sena believes Sharma’s entrance caused the BJP administration to target it for its cow protection programs, leading to arrests. The Sena then attacked the Chouhan administration over gaushala work, further separating it from the BJP.

During the Covid shutdown, the Bajrang Sena distributed food ration packages in the most impoverished Hindi heartland areas and gained new adherents.

Bajrang Sena Delhi section president Bhupendra Singh adds, “We wanted to give the BJP in Madhya Pradesh a jolt.” No other state has joined the Congress. This experiment will be watched.”

Bajrang Sena leaders would campaign for the Congress in the Assembly elections. We will inform every village that Kamal Nath is a Hanuman bhakt and would build gaushalas across the state and supports Hinduism. Pateria predicts the state will beat the BJP.

Former minister and Congress leader Sajjan Singh Verma praises Joshi and Sharma for bringing the Bajrang Sena to the Congress and discusses how the BJP used Hanuman to attack the Congress in the Karnataka elections and lost. He told The Indian Express, “The real Hanuman bhakt is Kamal Nathji.” and their election assistance is up to them.”

However, Congress is not pleased. A top party leader adds, “We are moving away from our core ideology and playing on their (BJP) pitch. We’ll suffer long-term. Our policies, not foot-soldiers, will win votes. We have enough staff.”

Party spokesperson K K Mishra denies these worries. “The Bajrang Sena is far-right. However, a Hindutva group has defected from the BJP and Sangh Parivar to join a secular party. That’s our pride. He claims ideology won’t hinder us.

The state’s BJP, which is floundering, dismissed the Bajrang Sena’s new alliance as a publicity stunt. Home Minister Narottam Mishra questioned the Bajrang Sena’s reach and acceptance to media. “Had anyone heard about the Bajrang Sena’s name before yesterday?” Mishra said.

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