India Has 82% Hindus, Do We Need To Say It's Hindu Rashtra: Ex-MP CM Kamal Nath Amid Embrace Of Bageshwar Baba

Congress leader Kamal Nath has lately courted self-styled godman Dhirendra Shastri, who has raised the demand of Hindu Rashtra, and has also appeared to play the 'soft Hindutva' card.


Former Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath

Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Tuesday said Hindus are 82 per cent of the Indian population and it does need to be said that the country is a Hindu Rashtra. 

Responding to a question on Hindu Rashtra, Nath questioned whether the subject is up for debate. 

The question was asked in context of self-styled godman Dhirendra Shastri, also known as Bageshwar Baba, raising the demand for India to be a Hindu Rashtra. Nath has lately courted Shastri. Earlier this month, he endorsed a three-day event headlined by Shastri in his home-turf of Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh. 


Shastri is a controversial figure who has made headlines for the alleged promotion of superstitions, making sexist comment, and raising the demand of Hindu Rashtra. Despite the controversies, Shastri maintains a cult-following. He is the head of Bageshwar Dham in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh. 

What did Kamal Nath say?

When asked about Dhirendra Shastri's demand of Hindu Rashtra, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath said what's there to make of it and pointed at the majority of Hindu population in India. 

"What is there to make? There are 82 per cent Hindus in India. In a country where there are so many Hindus, is it up for debate? This is there. If there are 82 per cent Hindus in India, do we need to say it is a Hindu Rashtra? Statistics tell this," said Nath in Hindi in a video shared by PTI.


Nath's embrace of Shastri and comment on Hindu Rashtra come months before the assembly election in Madhya Pradesh where Congress is eyeing to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Lately, Nath has been accused of playing the 'soft Hindutva' card in the state.

Kamal Nath's embrace of godman Dhirendra Shastri

Congress leader Kamal Nath hosted controversial self-styled godman Dhirendra Shastri in his home-turf of Chhindwara earlier this month. 

His son Nakul Nath, a Congress MP, received Shastri at the airstrip where he arrived in a private plan, according to Deccan Chronicle, which added that Nakul and Shastri then went by car to Nath's residence where the former chief minister welcomed Shastri with an aarti.

Nath had ‘officially’ endorsed Shastri's programme in Chhindwara and had unveiled it with a speech, reported Chronicle. 

Shastri said he arrived in Chhindwara at the invitation of Nath. 

"The former chief minister Mr Nath had earlier come to Bageshwar Dham in Chhatarpur district in Madhya Pradesh to invite me to come to Samariya. I am dedicating the Ram Katha programme in Samariya in the honour of the tribals," said Shastri, as per Chronicle, which added that Nath has come under criticism for his embrace of Shastri from fellow party leaders who have called the godman 'BJP agent' in the past. 


Kamal Nath playing 'soft Hindutva' card?

Former Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath's embrace of Dhirendra Shastri is being seen as part of a campaign to shed the Congress party's image of not representing the Hindu interests. His actions are being termed as playing the 'soft Hindutva' card. 

Lately, Nath has also engaged with Hindu organisations that his party has elsewhere distanced itself from.

"In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress has not shied away from playing the soft Hindutva card to negate the BJP’s advantage and shield itself from the accusation of being an 'anti-Hindu party'. Kamal Nath has organised several events over the past few years to portray himself as a Hanuman bhakt, set up a massive Hanuman idol in Chhindwara, and last month oversaw the merger of a Hindutva outfit called the Bajrang Sena with the Congress," reported The Indian Express. 


Shastri has been courted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well, as MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Home Minister Narrottam Mishra have also met him lately.

Milind Ghatwai in an article for India Today noted that even Digvijaya Singh has not criticised Shastri or the party's embrace of the controversial godman. In fact, his son Jaivardhan Singh has hosted Shastri at their family home. 

"Former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh is critical of Hindu Rashtra but hasn’t criticised the preacher. The Congress leader’s son Jaivardhan Singh, however, had received praise from the preacher when he hosted him in Raghogarh in Guna district in May this year. The preacher spent the night at the family fort and left early in the morning. Raghogarh was a small principality...A senior Congress leader admitted that the party was trying to appropriate the preacher in an attempt to rob the BJP of exploiting his popularity for votes," wrote Ghatwai in the article