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Rahul Gandhi to Continue Temple Run; Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh Units Told to Draw Up List of Shrines

By: Pallavi Ghosh

Edited By: Sanchari Chatterjee

CNN-News18

Last Updated: January 04, 2018, 13:07 IST

Congress president Rahul Gandhi offering prayers at a temple in Karnataka. (File photo: @INCIndia/Twitter)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi offering prayers at a temple in Karnataka. (File photo: @INCIndia/Twitter)

Karnataka, Rajasthan and MP are states where Congress hopes to do well and the party believes it is required to devise a strategy that can counter BJP’s appeal to the Hindutva brigade and what better than temple hopping, which would directly appeal to the Hindu sentiments.

New Delhi: Smelling some success in Gujarat election, the Congress — in a stock-taking meeting — has decided to continue with its ‘soft Hindutva’ strategy in the upcoming Assembly elections in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Deviating from its usual strategy, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi visited at least 14 temples during his extensive campaign in Gujarat. And with some key elections scheduled for the coming months, Team Rahul is not willing to part ways with the successful ‘soft Hindutva’ strategy.

Sources told News18, the state units of these poll-bound states have been asked to draw up a list of temples and mutts for Rahul to continue his ‘temple run’ with. The temples would have to be important ones and those with political significance in the region.

These are states where Congress hopes to do well and the party believes it is required to devise a strategy that can counter BJP’s appeal to the Hindutva brigade and what better than temple hopping, which would directly appeal to the Hindu sentiments.

Congress, however, has strictly maintained that Rahul visits both temples and mosques and doesn’t indulge in politics over religion. Yet, several Congress leaders, including the man himself has asserted that he is a ‘shiv bhakt’. Senior Congress leader Raj Babbar too has called Rahul a ‘shiv bhakt’ underlining the fact that the party is appealing the majority Hindu vote. The rethink within the Congress is that if it has to beat the BJP in its game, it has to join it.

In fact, in an internal assessment, Congress had concluded that the pro-Hindutva line of the BJP had worked very well for it in both the 2014 Lok Sabha election as well as the UP state elections. Congress’ fascination with minority appeasement seems to have boomeranged on it and added to the reasons behind BJP’s massive rise.

This also explains the changed strategy of the Congress even outside electoral politics. The party has been extremely careful in not attacking Hindu groups, even to the extent of hurting its core Muslim support. Many old allies like AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi have accused Rahul of indulging in ‘janeyu politics’.

But having seen victory from up close in Gujarat, Rahul won’t give up his ‘temple run’.

Some of the temples that Rahul Gandhi is likely to visit in Rajasthan are the famous Brahma temple in Pushkar and Chamunda Mata temple in Jodhpur. The entire list is yet to be finalised. In Karnataka, too, Rahul will be visiting some key mutts and in fact backroom talks and meetings over these visits have already started.

A senior member from Rahul Gandhi’s strategy team said, "It’s important for us to win in some states so that we can put up a fight in 2019 and if chanting the Ram and Shiva Naam helps, then why not!"

A beleaguered party, which has yet to record its big electoral win in several years, is now looking up for some divine help.