Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of using religion for political gains, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has said the use of bhagwa (saffron colour) to win votes is an "insult" to seers and also alleged that the party's thinking and principles are similar to that of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
Baghel said his Congress party has always worked to unite people and alleged that it is the Bharatiya Janata Party which has used the name of Lord Ram to divide people.
The Congress seems to be seeking to beat the BJP at its Hindutva game in Chhattisgarh which will go to assembly polls next year.
On Sunday, the chief minister inaugurated the revamped Shivrinarayan temple as part of the state government's ambitious Ram Van Gaman Tourism Circuit that is being developed to "preserve the memories of the exile period of Lord Ram".
"Before 1975, the RSS never talked about Ram Mandir. When they realised that they can get votes by raking up the name of Ram, they used it. Now, they have become big Ram devotees. The Congress has always worked to unite people.
"But the BJP has used Ram's name to divide people. The saffron colour is the symbol of supreme sacrifice. Bhagwa is adopted by those who make supreme sacrifice. They (BJP) are using bhagwa to win votes. It is an insult to seers. BJP wants to embrace freedom fighters but not their teachings and ideals," Baghel told PTI in an interview.
The Congress has always worked for the development and growth of Indian tradition, he said, alleging that the BJP's thinking and principles are similar to that of dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. "They are influenced by Mussolini," he alleged.
Targeting the RSS, the ideological mentor of BJP, the Congress leader said, "It is not our tradition to wear half pants and black cap and play drums. BS Moonje met Mussolini and brought his thinking here. Nehru did not meet Mussolini despite the latter's requests."
Baghel went on to allege that the RSS brought "aggressive Hindutva" here, saying that it believes in "destroying everyone whose thinking does not match theirs".
"The Communists' and our thinking do not match, we move forward by taking Indian tradition forward," the chief minister also said.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the Congress had won 68 seats in the 90-member Assembly while the BJP secured 15 seats.
Meanwhile, Baghel has pitched for Rahul Gandhi once again taking charge as Congress president, even as he asserted that the party follows a democratic process and anyone willing to contest for the post is free to do so.
Sonia Gandhi is currently the interim president of the Congress. She assumed the charge after Rahul Gandhi resigned from the position after the party suffered its second consecutive defeat in parliamentary elections in 2019.
"The dates for the Congress organisational elections have been announced and those who want to contest are free to file nomination. I believe that Rahul Gandhi should take charge as Congress chief," Baghel told PTI in an interview.
His remarks come as the Group of 23 leaders has called for a revamp of the party organisation. The demands for change in the Congress have increased in the wake of the party's poor performance in the recently held assembly elections.
The party had lost Punjab to the Aam Aadmi Party by a big margin.
Speaking about the debacle in the recent assembly elections, Baghel said, "Elections come and go, we shouldn't be disheartened by it. We should move ahead."
Last month, the Congress Working Committee decided Sonia Gandhi would continue to lead the party until the election for the post of Congress president is held.
Sonia Gandhi had also said she was ready "to make every sacrifice" in the interest of the party.
While reposing full faith in her leadership, the CWC urged her to effect immediate corrective changes to strengthen the party and meet the political challenges ahead of the next round of elections.
With the Congress organisational polls being underway, the party would have a new party president between August 21 and September 20 this year and thereafter, elections to the CWC would be held by October at the All India Congress Committee Plenary session.
Sonia Gandhi who took over the reins of the party again as interim president had also offered to quit in August 2020 after an open revolt by a section of leaders, referred to as G-23, but then too the CWC had urged her to continue.
In August 2020, twenty-three senior Congress leaders had written a letter to Sonia Gandhi requesting immediate and active leadership, organisational rejig.
In the letter, they sought an overhaul within the party in view of frequent failures in Lok Sabha and state elections. The leaders' demand intensified over time and senior party leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal, continued to defy the party's stand on several occasions.