Sharing seats or the Sanatan Row? Why Was the First I.N.D.I.A. Rally in Bhopal Postponed?

Delhi: The cancellation of the inaugural I.N.D.I.A rally, which was scheduled to be held in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, has raised questions about the unity within the 28-party coalition gearing up to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The abrupt decision to cancel the rally was announced by Kamal Nath, a prominent leader of the Madhya Pradesh Congress and a contender for the chief ministerial position. "The rally will not be taking place," stated Kamal Nath during a press briefing. Randeep Surjewala, the Congress general secretary, added that no firm plans have been made regarding when or where the rally might be rescheduled.

The cancellation prompted the BJP to criticize the I.N.D.I.A coalition. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan asserted that the rally was called off due to public outrage over a derogatory remark made by one of the coalition's members about Sanatan Dharma, a term often used to refer to Hinduism.

Chouhan expressed, "This reflects the anger of the public. Sanatan Dharma was insulted and likened to diseases like dengue and malaria. The people of Madhya Pradesh will not tolerate this... The I.N.D.I.A alliance should realize that it has deeply offended our faith, and this will not be tolerated under any circumstances. The people of Madhya Pradesh are upset, and the I.N.D.I.A members were apprehensive, which is why they canceled their rally."

The Chief Minister's statement pertains to a comment made by Udhayanidhi Stalin, a leader of the DMK and the son of MK Stalin. Udhayanidhi Stalin had recently compared Sanatan Dharma to diseases like malaria, dengue, and the coronavirus, and called for its eradication.

Numerous BJP leaders, including the Prime Minister, criticized the I.N.D.I.A coalition for Udhayanidhi Stalin's remarks about Sanatan Dharma. In response to these criticisms, Randeep Surjewala of the Congress retorted, "What is Sanatan? It represents the people of this country. An attack has been made on this very Sanatan today, which is why this 'Jan Akrosh Yatra' (People's Anger Rally) is taking place. Sanatan Dharma and its traditions will endure long after we are gone. The Indian National Congress will promote these traditions through this rally."

Instead of the I.N.D.I.A rally, the Congress has decided to organize "Jan Akrosh Yatras" across various parts of Madhya Pradesh starting on September 19. Sanjay Raut, the leader of the Uddhav faction of the Shiv Sena, acknowledged the rally's cancellation and stated, "There were certain issues that led to this decision. Rallies will still be conducted, and the locations may change. Our coordination committee will determine the new venues by tomorrow."

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