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Karnataka Congress Aims to Take on BJP's 'Hindutva' by Taking Rahul Gandhi on a Pilgrimage

Issues like Tipu Sultan Jayanthi, the perceived minority appeasement by Siddaramaiah government etc have already replaced BJP’s much touted “development” agenda.

D P Satish | CNN-News18dp_satish

Updated:January 11, 2018, 10:43 AM IST
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Karnataka Congress Aims to Take on BJP's 'Hindutva' by Taking Rahul Gandhi on a Pilgrimage
Many state Congress leaders and party workers feel that the new “avatar” of the newly elected Congress president will help the ruling party in beating the BJP in its own game.(Image source: http://www.karnatakapcc.com/)
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Bengaluru: The self-confessed “Shiv Bhakt” and a “Janeudhari” Brahmin Rahul Gandhi has risen the hopes of Karnataka Congress which is going to face a “do or die” Assembly election in April/May next year. Many state Congress leaders and party workers feel that the new “avatar” of the newly elected Congress president will help the ruling party in beating the BJP in its own game.

The BJP has already set the tone for the polls by raking up Hindu – Muslim issues. It has continued a strong attack on the Congress calling it an anti-Hindu party. Issues like Tipu Sultan Jayanthi, the perceived minority appeasement by Siddaramaiah government etc have already replaced BJP’s much touted “development” agenda.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been roped in as a star campaigner to woo Hindu voters. The Union minister Ananthkumar Hegde who is known for his anti-Muslim stance has been touring the state to mobilise core voters of the party.

But the Congress looks unfazed. The recently concluded Gujarat poll campaign and an impressive performance by the party have boosted the morale of the workers in its last bastion Karnataka. Most of the party workers and the leaders who spoke to News18 agree with Rahul Gandhi’s new approach. They actually want him to visit at least a dozen important Hindu temples and meet the powerful seers to beat the BJP in its alleged communal polarisation game.

A top leader of the state unit and a confidante of Rahul Gandhi said that Congress had never been an anti-Hindu party. Speaking to News18 on condition of anonymity he said “it is a fact that Congress is the original Hindu party and a nationalist party. The BJP hijacked it by branding us as an anti-Hindu party. Our leaders also walked into that trap. We are now trying to correct what has gone wrong for us in the past. Most of the Congress leaders are Hindus. All our Prime Ministers and 90% chief ministers have been Hindus. How can you call us anti-Hindu?”.

He said that Rahul Gandhi was not practicing a soft Hindutva and he was doing what every religious Hindu does. He said “in Gujarat the BJP has failed in its Hindu versus Muslim politics. The people have realized that Congress is not against the Hindus and Rahul Gandhi is a practising Hindu. All their poisonous campaign against Rahul Gandhi have backfired. He will certainly talk about “values and greatness of Hinduism in Karnataka”.

Another top leader, who spoke to News18 also on the condition of anonymity, attacked TV panelists and secular activists who are criticising Rahul Gandhi’s new brand of politics. He said “Finally, we have to win the majority community back if we want to return to power. There is a clear distinction between Hindus and Hindutva fanatics. If we don’t identify ourselves with the real Hindus, they might go with the fanatics helping the BJP. These so-called secularists must choose between a real Hindu tolerant of all other faiths and the communal BJP. Let them write articles, editorials, talk, tweet etc. We must win the country back. Otherwise the radical elements will destroy India”.

In an interesting development, CM Siddaramaiah is also openly identifying himself as a religious Hindu. Hitting back at Yogi Adityanath, Siddaramaiah claimed that he was a better Hindu than the UP CM.

Siddaramaiah, who is currently touring the state, does not forget to remind the voters that his name is Siddarama and his family deity is lord Rama. Speaking to News18, he said “BJP is full of fake Hindus. They use it to fool people and to win elections. We are the real, tolerant, inclusive Hindus. We love our religion and respect others faith. My family has built a Rama temple at my village Siddaramanahundi near Mysore. My parents named me Siddarama because of their devotion for the god Rama”.

He dismissed the charges of the BJP that the Congress was practising soft Hindutva. He said that there was nothing called soft Hindutva and a frustrated BJP was coining such words to confuse the voters.

According to top KPCC leaders, Rahul Gandhi is expected visit major Hindu temples and seers across the state during the poll campaign. He is likely to visit 1300-year-old Sharada Peetha at Shringeri in Chikkamagaluru district to seek the blessings of the Shankaracharya Sri Bharati Theertha Swamy. This respected monk was held in high esteem by Rajiv Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao. His predecessor Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Mahaswamigal Chandrashekhara Bharati was a guru to Indira Gandhi and many other top leaders of the Congress.

The state Congress wants Rahul to visit famous religious centres like Kukke Subramanya, Dharmasthala, Kollur, Udupi, Gokharna, Chamundeshwari temple at Mysore, Yediyur Siddalingeshwara temple etc.

To endear him to the dominant Lingayat caste, who are mostly with the BJP, the Congress is planning to take Rahul to 110-year-old Dr Shivakumara Swamy of Siddaganga mutt in Tumkur, Moorusaavira Mutt in Hubli, Sharanabasappa Appa at Gulbarga, the Vokkaligas seer Nirmalananda Natha Swamy at Adi Chunchanagiri and a few other important religious leaders.

Dismissing the fears that it might antagonise Muslims and Christians, who constitute over 13% of the votes in the state, a Congress leader said, “It does not mean that Rahul Gandhi won’t visit holy places of Muslim and Christians. He may visit Sufi shrines and even the Churches during the poll campaign. The entire campaign will be secular. We won’t do communal politics. We just reach out to everyone. Hindus are not BJP’s property”.

Even in the past both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi used to visit Hindu temples and mutts across Karnataka. Both mother and son had excellent rapport with the powerful seers and temples in the state. According to an old party worker Rahul is just following their footsteps and doing nothing new.

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| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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