New Delhi, Nov 14: Rahul Gandhi is drowning, literally. God save Rahul Gandhi.
The pace with which the Congress vice-president is hopping from one Hindu temple to another as a part of the Gujarat Assembly elections campaign would even leave a die-hard pilgrim tired.
But Rahul is hardly exhausted. Every time he visits a temple and bows his head in obeisance in front of a Hindu deity, he smiles from ear to ear for camerapersons. As soon as the priest overlooking the temple smears his forehead with a tilak, Rahul, already flaunting a garland and saffron shawl, looks no less than a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) karyakarta (worker).
It is this metamorphosis of Rahul which is causing tremors in the camp of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Looking at the list of Rahul's temple visit-- Dwakradhish, Chotila, Khodal Dham, Dasi Jeevan, Swaminarayan Akshardham and Vir Meghmaya, to name a few--in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home turf since September, one can't help but wonder if Rahul is planning to join the BJP.
A rough estimate has put the Gandhi scion temple visits close to eleven in poll-bound Gujarat.
In all fairness, the right-wing ruling party should have welcomed Rahul's pilgrimage in Gujarat. After all, the man whom the BJP accused of viewing the country wearing a pair of "Italian goggles" has literally turned into a mascot of "soft Hindutva".
On the contrary, the BJP is mighty miffed with Rahul for copying their stunts. Right from Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, several top leaders of the BJP have attacked the Congress VP for trying to woo Hindu voters by showcasing reverence to the religion practiced by a majority of Indians.
In October, Chouhan at an election rally in Bharuch, Gujarat, said, "Now, Rahul baba...is offering prayers at various temples...[a person] who has never lifted a puja ki thali is applying a big tilak and wearing big garlands, without having knowledge about the great culture of this country, otherwise, he would not have commented on women."
Chouhan was referring to Gandhi's quip on October 10 that he had never seen women going to RSS shakhas in shorts.
Adityanath said, "As far as Rahul Gandhi's visits to temples are concerned, I am surprised. Rahul Gandhi's pakhand and dhong [hypocrisy and sham] is not going to work."
"What else could be the purpose of a person to offer prayers at a temple who does not even know the difference of postures between puja and namaaz," he added. Further, Adityanath accused Gandhi of not even believing in the existence of Lord Ram.
The BJP is feeling the heat, as Rahul looks undeterred in spite of all the criticism and gleefully continuing with his temple yatra (journey).
The saffron party is so irked with Rahul's new-found love for Hindu religion that it has asked the Congress to "shed its pseudo-secularism and respect mainstream Hindutva".
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had said, "Why is Rahul Gandhi visiting temples only ahead of elections? People know their intention that they want to get votes through such gimmicks. They have no inclination for devotion as during Rahul Gandhi's earlier trips, he never visited any temple."
"We wish that Congress sheds its pseudo-secularism and respects mainstream Hindutva. But their gimmicks to get votes will not work in Gujarat," Patel added.
The Congress party hit back at the BJP, saying people would teach the ruling party a lesson as it was opposing a visit to a temple.
"Does anybody have a patent on devotion? They are opposing a visit to the temple. People of Gujarat will teach them a lesson," Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said.
"Rahul Gandhiji has visited a Jain temple and gurudwaras apart from Hindu temples. We believe in secularism," he had said.
The man at the centre of the controversy is maintaining his calm like a Zen monk.
On Monday, Rahul during his visit to Patan told reporters that he was a devotee of Lord Shiva.
"Main Shiv ka bhakt hoon, sachaai mein believe karta hoon. BJP jo bhi bole main apni sachaai mein believe karta hu. (I am a devotee of Lord Shiva, I believe in the truth. Let the BJP say anything, I believe in my truth)."
Most of the observers are reading Rahul's temple visits as an attempt to project the Congress, often accused of engaging in Muslim appeasement, as a pro-Hindu party in a state that is under the rule of the BJP for more than two decades.
However, there's more to Rahul's Gujarat temple darshan (tour) than meets the eye. Actually, the Gandhi scion is drowning, if he does not make an impact in Gujarat poll by reducing the BJP's vote share and seat numbers in the Assembly, Rahul's elevation to the Congress' top post would be once again delayed.
Rahul, truly, needs God's blessings to survive in politics and if that god happens to be a Hindu one, there is nothing wrong in that.
So, wait till Gujarat votes on December 9 and 14. Hopefully, Rahul won't end up taking sannyas (renunciation) from politics and turn into a true-blue ascetic.