In an interview with PTI, Purandeswari targeted the Congress government in Chhattisgarh over the religious conversion of tribal people.
“…I want to ask people and Congress party that is conversion not happening in Chhattisgarh? I would say conversion is not simply an issue of only religion but it is an attack on the culture and recognition of the tribal people, where it (conversion) has become prevalent (in the incumbent Congress rule). I would say conversion is a factor here”, said Purandeswari, the BJP in charge of Chhattisgarh.
Referring to a clash between two communities in Kawardha town of the state last month, she said the BJP was not responsible for that incident, as alleged by Congress.
"That is not what the BJP has done. (former Union minister) Salman Khurshid has compared Hinduism with ISIS. We are not doing it. It is only Congress and its leaders who are doing it. Where are we bringing division into society? Only they (Congress) are bringing it. It is not the BJP that has been doing it. The BJP believes in secularism,” she added.
A row has erupted over Khurshid's book 'Sunrise Over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times', with BJP and right-wing organisations claiming that it compares Hindutva with the jihadist Islam of terror groups. In a chapter titled 'The Saffron Sky', Khurshid writes: "Sanatan Dharma and classical Hinduism known to sages and saints were being pushed aside by a robust version of Hindutva, by all standards a political version similar to the jihadist Islam of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram of recent years."
The BJP has been targetting the Bhupesh Baghel government over the issue of religious conversion for the last few months. In July, senior party MLA Brijmohan Agrawal had also moved a private member's Bill in the Chhattisgarh assembly seeking prohibition of religious conversion through allurement or fraud, but it was not allowed to be tabled in the House.
Purandeswari also alleged that the Congress government in Chhattisgarh has failed to keep its several poll promises, including liquor prohibition and allowance to the unemployed.
People should compare the Congress government's performance with the previous Raman Singh led-BJP government on the parameters of development, she said. Purandeswari, who had served as a union minister in the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government before switching to BJP, further slammed the grand old party for claiming that the BJP lacked a face for representation in Chhattisgarh. She said BJP is not a person-driven party like Congress.
“Why are they (Congress) bothered about BJP? We will decide who is going to be our leader when the time comes (assembly polls in Chhattisgarh). We have a parliament board that decides who should be the leader of the party in a state. Our party is not a person driven party, ours is an ideology-driven party,” she said.
She referred to factionalism in the Chhattisgarh Congress unit over the purported formula to divide the post of chief minister for equal months between incumbent Bhupesh Baghel and senior leader TS Singh Deo.
“TS Singh Deo was promised to be made chief minister but he is yet to be made the CM. Baghel ji does not want to leave his spot. Congress should focus on its own camp which has been struggling with infighting”, Purandeswari added. She said BJP will come back to power in Chhattisgarh, the BJP stronghold, in the 2023 polls.
"The BJP has prepared a strategy to win elections. I would like to appeal to people that they should evaluate the incumbent Congress government to previous BJP rule on the parameters of development. No major industry has been set up during the Congress government in the state and there are no jobs for youth. The Congress failed to keep its promises including alcohol prohibition, allowance to unemployed,” the BJP national general secretary alleged.
She also said that corruption has reached a high level in the state government and liquor and sand mafias have been flourishing. "These issues will be raised in the next elections," Purandeswari added.
The BJP had ruled Chhattisgarh for 15 years from 2003 to 2018 before it was routed in the 2018 assembly polls by Congress. The BJP has 14 MLAs in the House compared to 70 of Congress.
With PTI inputs.