Mansarovar Yatra, temple spree and the ‘soft Hindutva’ risk that Rahul Gandhi is taking


New Delhi, Sep 12: With less than 10 months to go for the Lok Sabha elections 2019, Congress is desperate to come up with a narrative to counter the BJP. Apart from attacking the ruling government over Rafale deal, fuel price hike and mismanaging the economy, Congress president Rahul Gandhi is also working towards what is being called as 'soft Hindutva'.

The Congress is trying to ensure that the BJP cannot lay sole claim to the Hindu voter. It is known for decades now that Congress sees Muslims as their traditional vote bank. Now, Rahul is trying to send a larger message of being a devout Hindu as part of his strategy of soft Hindutva. Through Gujarat and Karnataka elections, Rahul has been seen in temples and at one time was even seen wearing a rudraksh. The party had said Rahul and his family were Janayeu dhaari.

Rahul reportedly made around 30 visits to temples during his campaign trail for Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017. Earlier this month he went for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra which was in line with his "I am a Shiv bhakt" claims.

Rahul has been attacking the BJP over lynching incidents and trying to portray the Modi-led government as being anti-Dalit and anti-poor.

This strategy may work for Congress provided that the traditional Muslim voters stay with the Congress and if Rahul's antics strike a chord with the section of Hindus who are disenchanted with the Modi rule.

But then, there also a risk that Rahul is taking. What if his so-called Hindu appeasement temple sprees and 'Shiv Bhakt' claims do not go down well with the Muslims. It is not that Rahul has not been trying to woo the Muslims, but there is a possibility that his over-enthusiasm about soft Hindutva may leave the minorities irked.

BJP leaders had hit out at Congress and Rahul Gandhi. The saffron party leaders also called out to Rahul to clarify his religion. Hitting back at BJP, the Congress party had said that Rahul Gandhi is a "Janeu Dhari" (one who wears a sacred thread) and "Shiv Bhakta."

So, Rahul is now aiming at both Hindu and Muslims voters. What he ought to keep in mind is that he cannot take Muslim votes for granted. Recently, at a function of an Urdu Daily, Rahul had reportedly said that Congress is a party for Muslims. A row erupted when this issue made headlines. Congress tried to shirk away from the controversy and did not make it clear if Rahul had said such a thing or not. BJP is too shrewd a party to capitalise on these kinds of issues. So, Rahul must tread the path he has chosen carefully or it will all boomerang so badly that Congress would find itself in a position from where it would be hard to recover.

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