New Delhi: From slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the imposition of Section 144 in his constituency of Varanasi, and meeting victims of alleged police excess in Uttar Pradesh, to taking on the Adityanath government over the arrest of party leader and activist Sadaf Zafar, Congress general secretary (UP east) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has made her presence felt in the state hit by the Citizenship Amendment Act protests.
But those aren’t the only moves she has made in Uttar Pradesh.
In a bid to counter the BJP’s narrative in UP, Priyanka has formed a 132-member team that she sent to Chhattisgarh — the state where the Congress secured a decisive victory over the BJP in 2018.
The UP Congress team attended a five-day workshop, from 16 to 20 December, under the tutelage of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, ThePrint has learnt.
In the aftermath of the visit, at the top of the party unit’s agenda now is setting up cow shelters to take on the Yogi Adityanath-led government on the issue of stray cattle, party sources told ThePrint.
The shelters will be modelled after Baghel’s flagship initiative — gothaans (cow day-care centres) — that not only address the stray cattle menace in Chhattisgarh but also provide employment to women.
The party plans to collect donations for the UP initiative and has sought Priyanka’s approval. She has agreed to look into the issue, the sources said.
UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu, however, told ThePrint that no such decision has been taken yet.
Not the first time cows discussed in UP Congress unit
This isn’t the first time that the stray cattle issue has been discussed by the recently constituted Uttar Pradesh Congress unit. At Priyanka’s first meeting in October, the members had asked for the party clear’s stand on kanwariyas, cows and Ram Mandir.
The solution is now being drawn up based on the Chhattisgarh model.
“We were shown the daycare shelters built by the Chhattisgarh government called gothaans,” one of the leaders present at the workshop told ThePrint. “It was recommended we start something similar in UP to tackle the stray cattle problem. It will be on a much smaller scale since we’re not in power.”
The stray cattle problem has hit farmers hard in the state, causing a ‘cow crisis’ under the BJP government. With a cow slaughter ban in place and the fear of vigilante groups, they can neither sell old cattle nor transport them. Moreover, according to the 2019 Livestock Consensus, the increase in the number of stray cattle has also taken a toll on the population of indigenous breeds of cows, which showed a 6 per cent decline since livestock owners shifted focus to buffaloes.
The Chhattisgarh playbook
The UP Congress unit hopes to draw from the party’s strategies in Chhattisgarh that propelled it to power in 2018, after 15 year in the wilderness. Since taking power, CM Baghel has been careful to attack the RSS and not the BJP, while at the same time playing up his Hindu roots and his dedicated pujas.
“The entire idea is to work the way the Congress did in Chhattisgarh. They countered the Naxalites, the BJP and the RSS to bolster the party’s presence there,” said the first leader.
A second leader present at the meeting said they were told to adopt Baghel’s strategy of opposing the RSS and not the BJP. “It is the RSS and people like Mohan Bhagwat that want to divide the country,” the second leader said. “The BJP has no ideology of its own. Their entire ideology comes from the RSS.”
Part of the strategy also includes taking on BJP and RSS icons such as M.S. Golwalkar and V.D. Savarkar.
“Savarkar and Jinnah wanted two nations on communal lines, not the Congress,” said the second leader. “We will also remind people that a letter from Mahatma Gandhi was responsible for getting Savarkar out of jail.”
Those present at the meeting said the state unit came up with a plan to counter the “misinformation” peddled about the Congress by the BJP.
“We will counter their facts with the truth,” said the first leader. “They say Nehru is responsible for the situation in Kashmir, but Nehru is responsible for bringing Kashmir into India’s ambit. If Nehru hadn’t withheld the army till Maharaja Hari Singh signed the accession accord, Kashmir may not have become a part of India.”
If Congress comes to power, he added, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) will also become a part of India.