After hitting prime minister Narendra Modi hard over issues like note ban and GST on the foreign soil, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is challenging the PM at his home turf, while making a strong attempt to counter the BJP’s charges against his party of being ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘minority appeasers’ by paying obeisance in temples. Gandhi’s move to visit Hindu holy places in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat is being seen as a befitting reply to the hardline Hindutva of the BJP and RSS.
The three-day tour included his visit to Lord Krishna temple in Dwarka, Chamunda Mata temple in Surendranagar, Khodaldham in Kagvad village — where Leuva Patels have built a grand temple of their community deity Khodal Ma, and an unscheduled visit to Jalaram Bapa temple in Virpur. At Khodaldham, the way Gandhi was welcomed a large number of Patidars by their signature slogan — Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar — is a welcome gesture for the beleaguered party desperate to challenge the BJP in the upcoming assembly elections.
Although Congress leader P Chidambaram defended Gandhi by saying “We have always held that each one is entitled to practice his own faith, we treat all faiths equal. …From the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, that is the stance of the Congress party,” he forgot that the party is once again relying on tried and tested path of populism. We still remember that prior to the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi had embarked upon a 2,500-km mahayatra covering 225 assembly seats spread over 42 districts in the state, but failed to make any mark. He strived hard to reach two-crore farmers during his yatra, reminding them of the farm-loan debt waiver scheme of the UPA-1 regime. Similarly, he is promising Gujarat farmers to waive off farm loans after coming to power, showing his lack of alternative strategy.
Gandhi has been politically active after winning 2004 Lok Sabha polls from UP, and during 2007 assembly polls, his roadshows had given nights to his opponents, but Congress vote share failed to improve. The party, which lack at the organisation level, needs to focus on this front. Gandhi also needs to come over his inconsistent image if he really wants to take on Modi.