The first proposed joint rally of Opposition bloc Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) in Bhopal in the first week of October on the issues of “rising prices, unemployment and corruption of the BJP government” may be a non-starter with Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath announcing on Saturday that it has been cancelled. “It is not going to happen,” Mr. Nath told journalists on the sidelines of a press conference called to announce the party’s Jan Aakrosh Yatra.
Even as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan attributed the move to “public anger” over the ongoing Sanatana row, there appeared to be some ambiguity among Congress leaders on the cancellation itself and the possible reason.
At the press conference earlier, the party’s in charge for Madhya Pradesh, Randeep Singh Surjewala, said that a final decision has not been taken on the rally and it was being discussed by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge with other alliance partners.
In Hyderabad where Congress Working Committee is meeting, senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram said he was not aware of the reasons behind the cancellation but rejected Mr. Chouhan’s charge.
“There is anger and sorrow among the people of Madhya Pradesh [over the anti-Sanatana Dharma remarks]. They [the Opposition] were afraid the people might express their anger and hence cancelled the rally,” the Madhya Pradesh CM said in Bhopal, referencing comments made earlier this month by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Udhayanidhi Stalin that Sanatana Dharma had sown divisions in society.
Sources said the INDIA bloc had shortlisted five venues – Delhi, Bhopal, Nagpur, Guwahati and Chennai – during its Mumbai summit and zeroed in on Bhopal during the coordination committee meeting on September 13 in Delhi.
Projected as the face for the upcoming Assembly election in Madhya Pradesh by several Congress leaders, Mr. Nath’s statement took some alliance constituents by surprise. “It looks like Congress’s internal tussle, they should settle it soon for the health of the alliance,” an Opposition leader said.
Sources within the Congress, however, said given that Congress national general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra already has a rally planned in Dhar on October 5, preparing for another rally would have been logistically challenging.