A tweet from Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Pramod Tiwari this week has created a buzz. Against the backdrop of the Covid crisis, he wrote that if all other activities can take place now, then why not the Amarnath Yatra. Why should faith be disappointed, Tiwari asked.
There’s another incident that has drawn attention in a similar vein. More than any other political contender in UP, the Congress has been going hammer and tongs over the matter of the recent land scam allegations against the Ram temple trust in Ayodhya. For three days in a row, the party in Delhi tried to make it a national issue. “How could BJP leaders commit such a big malpractice in the name of Lord Ram whose words, values and ethical conduct are sworn as ideals?" said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala. “How much more land has been purchased in such a manner at throwaway rates out of funds received for the temple’s construction?” The Congress accused the BJP of playing with the faith of the people and betraying Ram. Those who thought it was only a corruption issue being raised by the party were a bit off the mark. In a deeply polarised state like UP, heading for polls next year, where Ram and Ram Mandir are bound to be an emotive issue, the party hopes to win over some Hindutva voters through this controversy.
The Congress, in fact, is caught in a dilemma. While it wants to grab onto what was its traditional Muslim vote bank, its outreach to the hardcore Hindutva voters is something that matters to its strategists. But the party also knows that the minority voters are miffed with its blow hot and cold approach towards them. And they have begun to look for other options. The Samajwadi Party is one. And there are other players as well, like the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), and now even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
This is why the Congress hopes to compensate for the loss in Muslim votes by trying to win over some of the Hindutva vote bank.
And there is a plan. Sources say as the days to the polls come closer, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is likely to begin her campaign with Kashi Vishwanath darshan or even go to Ayodhya. This apart, the party intends to organise small gatherings like shivirs and mandalas to educate the people about what they call a scam involving the Ram temple trust and also organise Ram sevas.
A few Congress leaders have been chosen who will lead this Hindutva agenda. They will be entrusted with the task of ensuring that Brahmin and Hindutva voters are convinced that the party does not believe only in minority appeasement. While the Congress has put up a brave front, the exit of its UP leader Jitin Prasada, who also floated the Brahmin Chetana Samaj, has been a bit of a setback despite the fact that he was not very successful in polls.
Even Rahul Gandhi is expected to keep the pressure on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state over the alleged mismanagement of the pandemic situation, while his temple runs will continue.
But not everyone is happy with this ‘Ram push’. Some party members feel that corruption in the name of Ram is a charge that will never stick on Prime Minister Narendra Modi or UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. And as a leader told News18.com, “The ‘Chowkidar chor hai’ strategy didn’t work. No one believed the corruption charges against the PM.”
What many fear is that this see-sawing between the minorities and Hindutva will not work for the Congress and it could lose out on both counts. Said one leader, “Hope it doesn’t end up being a case of ‘na maya mili na Ram’."