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Assembly Elections 2018 | Rahul to Visit Karnataka District Where Indira Gandhi Scripted Her Political Rebirth

Like the Congress of today, the party was going through a slump in 1978. The excesses of Emergency had cost her the chair of the Prime Minister, she was not even a Member of Parliament.

D P Satish | News18dp_satish

Updated:March 20, 2018, 12:09 PM IST
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Assembly Elections 2018 | Rahul to Visit Karnataka District Where Indira Gandhi Scripted Her Political Rebirth
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)
Bengaluru: When Congress president Rahul Gandhi enters the imposing corridors of the 1300-year-old Sharada Peeth on Wednesday, historians will remember the time his grandmother Indira Gandhi visited the spot 40 years ago in 1978.

Like the Congress of today, the party was going through a slump in 1978. The excesses of Emergency had cost her the chair of the Prime Minister, she was not even a Member of Parliament.

Her family was going through enormous personal and political troubles, add to that the then Moraji Desai-led Janata Party government going on witch-hunt against her party men. Many newspapers had already written the Congress’ obituary and many top leaders had even jumped out of the “sinking ship”.

While contesting the historic Chikmagalur bypoll to enter the Lok Sabha, Indira visited the Peeth to seek blessings from the revered seer, late Chandrashekhara Bharati Theertha. The Sharada Peeth was founded by Adi Shankaracharya in Karnataka’s Sringeri, which is in Chikmagalur district.

Indira’s only ray of hope back then was Karnataka chief minister D Devaraja Urs, who had promised her that Congress would bounce back. She subsequently won from Chikmagalur and returned as the Prime Minister, two years later. Rest, as they say, is history.

Rahul Gandhi is also facing a similar crisis. The Congress is in a slump and his only bright spot is Karnataka. Interestingly, the current chief minister Siddaramaiah is, like Urs, also from Mysore. He too champions the backward classes, Dalits and Minorities. The similarities are such that supporters call Siddaramaiah, the modern-day Devaraja Urs.

If Indira had lost the Chikmagalur bypoll, it would not have been possible for the Congress to stage a comeback in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections. If the Congress lose Karnataka in May, Rahul will find it difficult to revive and prepare his party for the 2019 general elections.

Like Urs, who felt the pressure of getting Indira back on her feet against the RSS-backed Janata Parivar in 1978, Siddaramaiah must also be feeling the heat of saving the Grand Old Party from the BJP.

Rahul, after touring the communally sensitive Mangalore region of coastal Karnataka on Tuesday, will climb the mighty Western Ghats to enter the ‘coffee bowl of India’ — Chikmagalur — on Wednesday. His first port of call would be Sringeri, one of the holiest places for the Shaivite Hindus, including his own Kashmiri Brahmin ancestors.

His father, Rajiv Gandhi had visited Sringeri as Prime Minister and was present here a few days before his assassination. He was a devote follower of the Mutt.

The temple, on the banks of serene river Thunga, holds dear to the Gandhi family for reasons personal and political. Rahul will be retracing the steps of both his grandmother and father, maybe, in the search for peace and power.

Rahul is scheduled to meet the current pontiff, Sri Bharathi Theertha Swamy, after his arrival at the Mutt. Following a brief discussion with the seer, he will visit the nearby Rajiv Gandhi Sanskrit University. The Congress president will also be inaugurating the party’s local block office building in Sringeri.

The current scenario for the Congress in Chikmagalur is quite grim. It last won the Lok Sabha seat in 1991 and currently has only one MLA in the district.

The BJP, backed by the RSS and other Hindutva outfits, has emerged as the most powerful party in the district over the last two decades.

From Sringeri, Rahul Gandhi will fly to district headquarters of Chikmagalur town to address a public meeting. After that, he will enter former PM and JDS supremo HD Deve Gowda's family fiefdom, Hassan district, to address a few more public meetings.

Will his Chikmagalur sojourn work well for the party? Only the Karnataka Assembly elections result will confirm that.

But history always repeats itself. Truly.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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