While experts agree that the Congress is indeed practising soft Hindutva, they are divided on whether the party would reap electoral benefits from the strategy shift.
Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, political analyst and author of Narendra Modi: The Man, the Times, is of the opinion that the shift of strategy has snatched away the trump card from the BJP.
“The BJP can now no longer claim to be the lone protector of Hindutva and they also cannot attack the Congress by calling them pro-Muslim anymore,” he said and added that party definitely stands to gain from the shift. “If you see, more upper caste people are now relating to the Congress. The Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan manifestos spoke of cow shelters and cow protection. The results are there for everyone to see,” he says.
Sudha Pai of JNU has a different opinion. She feels the Congress tasted success in the state elections due to several factors.
“Definitely, soft Hindutva was of one the reasons, but there were a lot of other factors that also contributed to the Congress victory. There was anti-incumbency, agrarian distress, etc. Also, if you see, the Congress managed to get votes from all corners and not just from upper castes. Even the Dalits and other communities have voted for it,” she says, and adds that the gains in the upcoming polls due to the pro-Hindutva strategy would only be marginal.
However, Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for Studies on Developing Societies echoes Mukhopadhyay’s views. He says the shift in strategy would prove to be a game changer for the Congress. “This soft Hindutva stand that the Congress has taken will definitely increase its vote share and seats, albeit marginally, as people tend to vote for national parties in the Lok Sabha polls,” he says.
Jai Mrug of Voter Mood Research says there is indeed a shift toward soft Hindutva in the Congress, but that will not help it gain substantially. “It will attract upper castes at best. What this could mean is that the Congress could marginally eat into the BJP’s voter base. But with alliances blooming in various parts of the country, even that (gain) will be nullified. The only benefit that this shift of strategy will have will be to allow the Congress to stay relevant among the masses," says Mrug.