A quick perusal of the Congress manifestos issued for the 2008, 2013 and 2018 Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh bears out party leader and Deputy Speaker Rajendra Singh’s assertion that the Congress has taken a conscious decision to shed the “pro-Muslim” tag thrust on it by the BJP.
While the latest manifesto has more pages and points than the 2008 and 2013 manifestos put together, it is the treatment that highlights that the party was earlier not weighed down by the burden of being perceived as “pro-Muslim”. “The BJP used to brand us as Muslim party. It’s a conscious decision to shed that tag thrust on us by our rivals,’’ manifesto committee chairman Rajendra Singh, who is contesting from Amarpatan constituency in Satna district, said recently.
Unlike the ‘Vachan Patra’ of 2018, the previous manifestos were called only manifestos and talked about modernisation of madrasas, Sachar Committee recommendations and Urdu and Arabic languages, while repeatedly referring to minorities. However, the 2018 ‘Vachan Patra’ makes several references to the cow, promising gaushalas and sanctuaries, commercial production of gaumutra and dung, promises to develop Ram Van Gaman Path, laws for conserving sacred rivers mentioned in the scriptures, and promoting Sanskrit, among causes usually espoused by the BJP.
Under “resolutions meant for welfare of the minorities” in the beginning of the 60-page manifesto in 2008, the party listed points like setting up of a special cell for effective implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations, creating an atmosphere free of fear, running programmes for education of minorities, special grants for providing modern education in madarsas, special incentives for girls’ education, and a system to teach Urdu and Arabic in government and other schools. The manifesto mentioned cattle and animals but the only reference to cow came when it spoke about providing more facilities to gausevaks.
Under the head “Minority Community”, the 2013 manifesto promised in bold letters the immediate implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations, increase in the budget of madrasa board and special economic assistance to provide modern education in madrasas and a law to stop communal violence, among other points.
Like the 2008 manifesto, the 2013 document also did not even once talk about the cow, except the reference to gausevaks, while referring to animal husbandry and milch animals. In comparison, the 2018 document talks about improvement of indigenous cow breeds while mentioning the animal many times. The “religious trust and endowments” head employs terminology usually used by the BJP for rivers. It talks about increasing the honorarium for pujaris and also “those associated with other religions”. The manifesto has used a photograph of Muslim men in skull caps to list points under the head “justice and empowerment of OBC/minorities”.