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Is BJP scared of Congress' ‘soft-Hindutva' strategy?


New Delhi, Oct 12: With less than a year left for the Lok Sabha elections 2019, both the BJP and the Congress are working hard to build a narrative that would swing the electoral battle their way. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pitched development and weeding out corruption in a major way during the last elections, and these elements would definitely remain part of BJP's campaign strategy even this time around.

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Development is the new dimension added by Modi to an already existing 'pro-Hindutva' image of the party which will always linger on. Now, the BJP's problem, as many feel, is that even the Congress is trying to enter this Hindutva domain. One part of Congress' strategy for 2019 is to build a strong narrative around Rafale deal, Modi government's handling of the economy, mob lynchings, increasing polarisation and intolerance etc to counter the BJP. The other part is what is being called as 'soft Hindutva' approach which is aimed at sending across a subtle message to the voters that 'Congress too is pro-Hindus'.

It appears that the BJP is not very comfortable with Rahul's new 'Shiv Bhakt' avatar. BJP is not very comfortable on Congress attempting to poach voters in its territory, a veteran journalist said when asked about Congress' so-called 'Soft Hindutva' approach.

The BJP's discomfort is apparent from the way some of its leaders react whenever Rahul Gandhi's visit to a temple makes news. Union Minister Giriraj Singh on Oct 1 lashed out at Rahul Gandhi and said that his visit to Shiva temples and Kailash Mansarovar is nothing but purely a "political gimmick". During the Gujarat elections, Subramanian Swamy ahd said that Rahul Gandhi has a Church in his house. Even Congress' claims of Rahul being a Janeu Dhari did not go down too well with the BJP.

[Will Congress' 'soft Hindutva' strategy pay-off?]

Also, the fact that some sections of the upper caste in the Hindi belt who are considered BJP's traditional vote bank have expressed their disenchantment with the saffron party. The BJP fears that Congress is eyeing this disenchanted section of Hindu voters.

Rahul's Hindu tilt began with a visit to the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand. He doubled down by temple-hopping during the Gujarat assembly elections in December 2017 and then again during the Karnataka state elections earlier this year.

[Congress' big 'Hindutva' push: Fasting, Kanya Pujan on the cards this festive season]

While it is clear that Rahul is 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 not 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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