Digvijay Singh: My Sanatan dharma is for unity, theirs for division
Bhopal's Congress candidate on being religious, not imposing it on others and the BJP skipping development talks
In bipolar Bhopal, Congress candidate Digvijay Singh sees to it that Hindu sentiments are not hurt. His daily campaign ensures visits to multi-faith shrines, but what remains striking is the love and openness to accept the principles of Hindu Sanatan dharma, that Digvijay's opponent Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur of the BJP, invokes while asking for votes.
Supremely fit at this age, Digvijay Singh's skull gear, a white gamccha with a tricolour print, protects him from the soaring May temperatures. As aarti thalis welcome Diggi Raja in both rural and urban areas, he tells people to elect the party that is not divisive.
We ask the candidate about several issues as he is driven around in a black SUV.
People wonder about your other side, which is your love for puja-archa (religious activities) and new-found love for Hindutva.
I have always been very religious because my mother was. Religion for me is entirely personal. I think it should not be a question of politics. Why should there be a competitive feeling between the different sects of religions? Religion brings people together, particularly the (Hindu) Sanatan dharma which is not divisive at all. In fact, all religions say so. Your actions have to be fair and just in the multi-faith society.
But your opponent says she is a true representative of Sanatan dharma.
She is entitled to her view. If that is her understanding then I can't help it and I would not counter it. If her (or her party's) understanding is creating problems for society, then it is for the people to decide. In a multi-faith society you cannot impose your faith on others. You cannot impose on others as to what they should wear and eat.
You are accused of coining the term saffron (Hindu) terrorism and this has become the main agenda for the hot seat.
Show me a single clip or video in which I say so. In fact, R K Singh, former home secretary, got this term coined. Mumbai and Pune's former commissioner of police Satyapal Singh have also named the people who have links with this particular ideology. Both officers were made ministers in the BJP government. The two have been rewarded for that. This proves that they (BJP) wanted officers to say things that would polarise society (in the name of religion).
Has the spiritual experience of Narmada Parikrama changed you as a person and as a politician?
I was thinking about doing the parikrama from the day I had this kind of vision, sometime in 1998. Frankly, I did not know people were doing the parikrama. I discussed my wish with my spiritual guru Swami Swarupanand, the senior most Shankaracharya of the country. The guru said you must do it if you want an experience. The six months 10 days in which I walked 3,100 km was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Did the parikrama have any politics attached?
No, not at all. I scrupulously avoided making any political statement about it.
Your agenda for the Bhopal seat is?
For them (BJP), talking about development doesn't exist. They are only fighting issues like terrorism with communal overtones. They are not talking about black money, corruption, jobs and election promises Mr Modi had made. As far as the Bhopal seat is concerned, I'm totally fighting on what I can do and what I have done for them so far (as the CM of MP). I am not concerned about what they speak against me. I don't want to rebut. I am an open book.
People say you wasted years when you decided to not contest polls for 10 years. Why have you ended the rajsanyas this time around?
I always felt there has to be accountability and credibility in politics. I had said that if I didn't win the Assembly elections, I would not contest any polls for 10 years. Many people asked me (to contest) during that period but that would have been loss of face for me.
Also there were people in the Congress party who thought that my policies (as then CM) cost the party the elections. I withdrew. But the leaders (who wanted me out) could not deliver in future. Here I'm in now, after a good show in MP elections. By God's grace my party will be able to make a government in New Delhi as well.
Will your victory here be a resounding response to the adversaries in the Congress?
I don't hold it against anyone. I've always loved the challenge. That is something that encourages me to move on and take up a challenge, no matter how difficult it is.
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