New Delhi: Babulal Chourasia, a devout follower of Mahatma Gandhi assassin Nathuram Godse, who had in the past actively took part in the construction of a “temple” for Godse and propagated his ideals, joined the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday. He was accorded welcome by senior Congress leaders, including former chief minister Kamal Nath, who justified the induction.
The induction of the former Hindu Mahasabha leader into the Congress has not just resulted in the BJP and Hindu outfits taking potshots at the grand old party’s leaders but has also left its own house divided.
A corporator of ward 44 in the Gwalior municipal corporation, Chourasia left the Congress in 2014 ahead of civic polls after he was denied a ticket. He joined the Hindu Mahasabha and won the civic body poll on its ticket.
After his re-entry into the Congress on Thursday, he said he now has hriday parivartan (change of heart), leaving many bemused if that is really the case, as his decision to jump ship again coincides with the fast-approaching local body polls in Gwalior.
Chourasia added that rejoining the Congress for him was similar to reuniting with his “first family” as he had been a Congressman since he was 22.
“It never felt right in the heart and I often thought of not doing it and quitting to join the Congress. But I did not want people to come and tell me that you had won on a ticket given by the Hindu Mahasabha. I have completed my tenure but in the first few years of joining the Mahasabha, a bitterness had developed in my heart, so I quit and went back to my old family,” Chourasia was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
He further added if Valmiki, a dacoit, can change his heart and become maharshi (sage), why can’t he rekindle his associated with the Congress.
In 2017, Chourasia had been part of the Hindu Mahasabha core committee which conceptualised a “temple” for Godse. After the Gwalior administration refused permission for the temple, the Hindu Mahasabha installed Godse’s bust in its Daulatganj office in November 2017. It was, however, later removed by the local civic administration after the Congress party vehemently campaigned for its removal.
Chourasia’s stock among Hindu outfits also rose when he announced in 2019 that he would forward Godse’s last court statement to one lakh people.
Congress versus Congress; BJP trade barbs
Defending Chourasia’s induction into the party, Kamal Nath said if someone realises that they have been on the wrong side of things so far, they can come and join the Congress. “If Modi wants t0 join our party, he can come,” he was quoted as saying by Indian Express.
Explaining further, the former chief minister said there are several ministers in the BJP government in the state who, he said, had abused the RSS and BJP throughout their lifetime. “They would attack the RSS and even Modi, but it’s okay for them to join the BJP. Is that worse or this?” he asked.
According to the Times of India, Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Gupta invoked Gandhi and his “hate the sin, not the sinner” saying.
“This is why, when Godse first attacked him in Pune with a knife, Gandhiji called him and spoke to him. He forgave him. Gandhiji teaches us to give a person one more opportunity. If a person was originally a Congress worker and wants to return to the party, we should actually allow him or her that one more opportunity.”
Congress leader and Gwalior South MLA Praveen Pathak, who was present at Chourasia’s induction, said it was part of the Congress’s ethos to forgive people and said that Rahul Gandhi had “forgiven” his father Rajiv Gandhi’s killers.
“Earlier Chaurasia was in Congress but he fought the elections and got elected as a corporator from Hindu Mahasabha. Our party leader (Rahul Gandhi) has forgiven the killers of his father. They (Gandhis) are so large-hearted, it’s because of their values that a person worshipping Godse started worshipping Gandhiji,” NDTV quoted Pathak as saying.
However, not everybody in the Congress has echoed the same view, with some senior leaders openly criticising the leaders responsible for allowing Chourasia to join the party.
Arun Yadav, the former Madhya Pradesh Congress chief, took to Twitter to express his feelings over Chourasia’s induction. He tweeted the picture of Chourasia and Kamal Nath together and wrote “Bapu hum sharimdha hai (Bapu, we are ashamed)”.
Meanwhile, the BJP took potshots at the Congress, accusing it of desperation.
“It’s because of the civic polls as they have been wiped out of the Gwalior-Chambal region. A month back, Kamal Nath had asked chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan whether he was with Mahatma Gandhi or with Nathuram Godse. Now Kamal Nath himself needs to answer that question,” BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari was quoted as saying by the New Indian Express.
The All India Hindu Mahasabha too hit out at the Congress. “It shows Congress is running short of committed workers and is ready to take anybody in its fold,” said Hindu Mahasabha national vice-president Jaiveer Bhardwaj.
He further added that Chourasia did not snap ties with the Hindu Mahasabha two years back, as he has claimed, but had even participated in a programme to start the “Godse library” last month.