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Big Question at Congress Chintan Shivir

The Congress’ need to reclaim the nationalist space from the BJP can also be seen in the optics of the Udaipur Chintan Shivir.

For instance, in the 2013 Jaipur Chintan Shivir, the background flex on the main stage had three pictures: Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Rahul Gandhi.

This time the flex put up on the stage for press conferences didn’t have the party leaders and instead had an artwork of Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March.

The approach road leading to the Chintan Shivir venue in Udaipur is dotted with horizontal flexes containing pictures and quotes of freedom fighters like Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Patel, Sarojini Naidu, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Lala Lajpat Rai besides post-freedom struggle Congress leaders Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao, and Dr Manmohan Singh.

The party seems to have made it a point to project a diverse set of icons, in response to BJP’s attempts at appropriating icons and criticism that Congress has given inordinate importance to the Nehru-Gandhi family in the past.

But it’s not just about going beyond the family, the party also seems to be trying to project ideological diversity within the nationalist space – from Shaheed Bhagat Singh on the Left to Dr Rajendra Prasad, Lala Lajpat Rai, and PV Narasimha Rao on the Right.

It appears that the Congress wants to go back to occupying a broad Centre space in politics – on matters of national security, cultural nationalism, and the economy.

“We have allowed BJP to give the impression that we have ceded this broad centrist, nationalist space. This space belongs to the Congress. This space best represents India,” a leader involved in the discussions of the political issues committee said.

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