‘Rahul in Tamizh Vanakkam’ or’ Rahul’s Tamil welcome’ is what the Congress leader’s visit to Tamil Nadu on 14 January or Pongal day is being called . It is no coincidence that he has chosen the particular day and occasion to reach out to farmers as well.
Rahul will begin his tour to the poll-bound state with a visit to Madurai where he will watch the traditional and revered game of Jalikattu. While animal rights activists are against the festival that sees several bulls suffering injuries, the court has given it a go ahead amid severe protests by people of the state.
Bulls are also integral to farming and Rahul’s visit coincides with his attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre over the three farm sectors bills.
The Congress leader, who has also been criticised for going on leave in the midst of the farm protests, an issue he feels strongly about, is showing his support to the cause of farmers by attending a Jallikattu event.
Beyond this, Madurai is a temple town and Rahul has chosen an auspicious day to make his temple run.
Tamil Nadu holds a special place for the Gandhis as this is the state where former PM Rajiv Gandhi had breathed his last and Sriperumbudur holds an emotive bond for the family.
As of now, there are no political meetings lined up but his challenge remains to keep the deeply divided Congress together in the state. Only recently, interim president Sonia Gandhi appointed several secretaries and general secretaries to the party in the state.
This invited a caustic comment from Karti Chidambaram who said the many office bearers would not mean the Congress which had a weak organisation could win the elections. The Congress has been in an alliance with the DMK in the state and this time, most of its MPs came from the south.
Being an MP from another southern state, Rahul’s temple and farmer outreach from south bears political significance. Rahul has been attacking the PM for being anti-farmer and pro-rich.
BJP president JP Nadda is also expected to be in Tamil Nadu on Pongal day and the BJP makes no bones about the fact that it wants to unfurl the saffron flag in this state which has seen a political vacuum since Jayalalithaa’s death. The DMK hopes to take advantage of this vacuum and some in the party feel the Congress would be a liability for the alliance. However, with Rahul’s timing of the visit, the grand old party hopes to take the bull by its horns.