New Delhi, Dec 29: One subject that was widely discussed during the recently held Gujarat Assembly elections was the number of times Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited temples in the state during campaigning.
According to reports, Rahul visited more than two dozen temples in Gujarat from September to December.
Why did Rahul embark on temple visits? While critics say it was the Congress' "soft Hindutva" agenda, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lambasted Rahul for visiting temples solely for the purpose of garnering votes during the elections.
However, the Congress after the elections stated that the idea was to "dispel the misperception that the Congress is synonymous with Muslims and that the BJP is equivalent to Hindus".
In an interview to The Indian Express, Ashok Gehlot, the Congress' Gujarat in-charge, who was with Rahul in almost all his temple tours stated that "the BJP succeeded in creating a misunderstanding in the Hindu society that the Congress means Muslims and the BJP means Hindu."
"Aur Congress kyunki secularism ko aadhaar lekar chali hai hamesha, toh ek message taiyar kiya desh ko ki hum sab dharmo ko lekar saath chalna chahte hain desh ke hit mein. Us perception ka unhone misuse kiya BJP ne - Congress musalmanon ki party ban gayi hai, Congress musalmanon ko tarjeeh de rahi hai aur yeh baat Hinduon ke dimaag mein aa gayi country ke andar. Ram Mandir ke naam pe aa gayi thi....aaj se 20-25 saal pehle...Yatra nikali gayi thi....gaon gaon ke andar...paise ikatthe kiya gey the...aise mahol ban gaya country ke ander," he said.
(For the Congress, secularism has always been a guiding principle. So the message was that we want to take everyone along in the interest of the country. The BJP misused that perception (to signal) that the Congress has become a party of Muslims, the Congress is giving preference to Muslims. And this impression has gained ground. It was underlined in the name of Ram temple...20-25 years ago...when the yatra was taken out....in very village....funds were collected...such an atmosphere was created in the country.)
"...Hindu society mein ek galatfehmi paida karne mein yeh kamyab ho gaye ki Congress ka matlab hai musalman aur BJP ka matlab hai hindu. Us chakkar ke andar yeh desh chal raha tha, aur chal raha hai abhi bhi kaafi had tak....jo bhavana bani hui hai logon ki aur jo dimaag mein ghusi hui hai, usko desh ke hit mein nikalna jaroori hai. Aur agar nahin nikalenge toh aane wale waqt mein taqleef hogi, pure mulk ko taqleef hogi," he added.
(They succeeded in creating a misunderstanding in the Hindu society that Congress means Muslims and the BJP mean Hindu. The country got caught in that narrative and continues to be so. It is necessary to remove that feeling from the minds of the people in the interest of the country. If that is not removed, then there are hard times ahead for the country.)
The veteran Congress leader, who was also the former chief minister of Rajasthan, said that Mani Shankar Aiyar's "neech" remark and Kapil Sibal's plea in the Supreme Court to defer the hearing in the Ayodhya lawsuit until July 2019 helped the BJP during the Gujarat polls as it gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi an "opportunity to divert" the discourse.
In the Gujarat elections, the BJP emerged victorious by winning 99 seats in the 182-member state legislative assembly. The Congress came second by improving its tally from the previous elections by winning 77 seats.