Rahul's temple run unnerves BJP, but carries own risks

It was clear that the BJP is unnerved by Rahul's overt display of being a  Hindu, when it fielded ministers to question Rahul's commitment to the religion and even stoking controversies such as the Congress president consuming chicken right before a temple visit. Photo by PTI.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s hopping from temple to temple may be a transparent ploy to regain the trust — and votes — of Hindus, but it is giving sleepless nights to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP, whose perennial electioneering mode often makes it an insecure party, is in no mood to let the Gandhi scion have his secular cake and eat his temple laddu.

As Rahul followed the family tradition by offering prayers at the famous Peetambara Temple in Datia in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP fielded spokesman G V L Narasimha Rao to hit out at the Congress for trying to appease Hindus while at the same time opposing the Ram Temple.

The BJP has quickly dubbed Rahul an election Hindu. The Congress outreach comes at a time when the Sangh Parivar is stepping up its campaign for building the temple at Ayodhya, an initiative which coincides handily with the election campaigns in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Rahul’s temple runs began during the Gujarat elections with a visit to the famous Dwarkadheesh Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. He visited at least 25 more temples, including a visit to Somnath that triggered a controversy over his religion.

In the subsequent Karnataka elections, the Congress made it a point to have prominent temples and local mutts on Rahul’s itinerary across the state in a bid to appeal to the spiritual masses in the state.

The BJP’s response was to wheel out ministers to question his commitment to religion and even stoke controversies such as the Congress president eating chicken right before a temple visit.

While Congress leaders are relishing the BJP’s discomfiture and busy projecting Rahul as a ‘Shiv Bhakt’ in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh after his Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage, Rahul cannot go the whole hog to win the Hindu vote, and risks antagonising the core Congress voters among the minorities.

“Indira Gandhi was a devout Hindu, Rajiv Gandhi also visited temples. But they always showed they were secular. They were never into appeasement of this kind,” Annpurna Nautiyal, professor of Political Science at the H N Bahuguna Garhwal University, told DH.

“The temple issue is only political, common people are not bothered. They want better facilities such as roads, healthcare, education,” Nautiyal said.

Another political analyst who has tracked the Congress closely said it would anyway be a long haul for the party to undo the perception that it was not bothered about Hindus and only cared for the minorities.

In his assessment of the Congress’ Lok Sabha debacle, senior leader A K Antony had observed that the Congress was perceived to be a pro-minority party.

“Congress policy is equal justice to everyone. But people have doubt whether that policy is being implemented or not. This doubt is created by the party’s proximity towards minorities, and such a situation would open the door for the entry of communal forces into Kerala,” Antony had said in 2014 immediately after the Congress’ rout in the Lok Sabha elections.

Also see:

Smriti targets Rahul's temple visits
Rahul Gandhi to stay put in Saurashtra for 3 days to help revive party fortunes
Rahul begins MP tour, offers prayers at temple
Rahul's temple run to continue in Karnataka


 

It was clear that the BJP is unnerved by Rahul's overt display of being a  Hindu, when it fielded ministers to question Rahul's commitment to the religion and even stoking controversies such as the Congress president consuming chicken right before a temple visit.

While Congress leaders are relishing the BJP's discomfiture and are busy projecting Rahul as a 'Shiv Bhakt' (devotee of Lord Shiva) in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh post his Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage, analysts feel that such a display of religion may not help the Grand Old Party in elections.

“Indira Gandhi was a devout Hindu, Rajiv Gandhi also visited temples. But they always showed they were secular. They were never into appeasement of this kind,” Annpurna Nautiyal, Professor of Political Science at the H N Bahuguna Garhwal University told DH.

She pointed out that the Congress was always seen to be appeasing the minorities, but Rahul is seen keen to shed that tag and reach out to Hindus as well.

“Temple issue is only political, common people are not bothered. They want better facilities such as roads, healthcare, education,” Annpurna said.

Another political analyst who has tracked the Congress closely said that it would be a long haul for the party to undo the perception that it was not bothered about Hindus and only cared for the minorities.

In his assessment of the Congress' Lok Sabha debacle, senior leader A K Antony had observed that the Congress was perceived to be a pro-minority party.

“Congress policy is equal justice to everyone. But people have doubt whether that policy is being implemented or not. This doubt is created by the party’s proximity towards minorities, and such a situation would open the door for the entry of communal forces into Kerala,” Antony had said in 2014 immediately after the Congress' rout in the Lok Sabha elections.

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Rahul's temple run unnerves BJP, but carries own risks

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