Taming of the shrew, Rahul style
One wonders why he had to wrap-up his much-hyped three-day tour of Modi’s land, Gujarat, after offering prayers at four temples in double-quick...
‘If you can’t win them, join them’ is the age-old wisdom that is gradually getting drilled into the mindset of the managers of the Congress party. This is the logical conclusion one draws while decoding the manner Rahul Gandhi has been going about in wining over the masses, the once taken for granted vote-bank that has distanced itself from the party for quite some time now.
One wonders why he had to wrap-up his much-hyped three-day tour of Modi’s land, Gujarat, after offering prayers at four temples in double-quick succession. It looked as though he was aiming to take the bull by its horns at its own game-a softened Hindutva touch, which is undeniably the trump card of the RSS and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Congress, to be helmed by the Gandhi scion, seems to be reorienting its ideological moorings by wiping out the pro-Muslim tag, once and for all, and take a leaf from VN Gadgil’s suggestion of exploiting the Hindutva poll plank. Political analysts aver that Rahul visiting temples at a particularly critical juncture is indicative of the paradigm shift in the party’s ideological position on this count as also of the generational differentiations in reaching out to people, who were seemingly lost forever.
Quite apparently, belated or otherwise, it has dawned on the Rahul Brigade that religion has a mesmeric hold on people, which the BJP has successfully taken advantage of while making a telling comeback at the national level. It remains to be seen if the Congress leader will confine this strategy to the ensuing Gujarat elections or a more refined and broad-based approach would be used in 2019. Of course, how the party fares in the Modi-Amit Shah bastion will have a bearing on the calculations for the general elections.
Using religion for mobilising votes is not a new phenomenon. Even Indira Gandhi played the Hindu card and so has the Saffron Brigade, time and again. But Rahul believes (or is it believed) in an ideology that is symmetrically and diametrically parallel to that championed by the likes of Narendra Modi and the BJP poll managers.
The Congress party derives its sustenance from secularism. However, wiser from experience, it is now trying to take cue from Karl Marx’s gospel-Religion is the opium of masses. This ‘all is fair in love and war’ turnaround will be the other extreme to the kind propagated by Jawaharlal Nehru, who had taken exception when Rajendra Prasad, as the President of the country, had inaugurated Somnath temple!
Meanwhile, questions remain on Rahul’s Gujarat ‘electioneering’ that included offering prayers at Dwarkadhish temple and Chotila temple in Surendranagar district; Khodiyar Mata, the reigning deity of the Leuva Patel community; Dasi Jeevan, revered by Dalits and Buddhists and an unscheduled visit to Jalaram temple in Veerpur. One cannot miss out on the fact that each has a political overtone.
Khodiyar Mata is ostensibly to win over Patels, who are up in arms against the BJP government over their demand for reservations in government jobs and educational institutions. Today, we have Hardik Patel being lured into Congress campaigning. It is unmistakable-the party is determined to win the Gujarat elections, including by using the caste and religion card.
The focus on Gujarat elections is rather straight-forward. Losing the State, which he ruled till he moved over to New Delhi, to Congress, or any other party for that matter, would be the most shocking reversal that Modi may ever suffer in his meteoric political career that has seldom seen any setbacks and most certainly not in his backyard.
It is strange how situational equations change. There was a time when even stalwarts of the extraordinary calibre of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani failed to attract the gullible voters to their side-the 1984 decimation, when it had just two members in the Lower House, stands as a classic reminder of the failed agenda. The Congress, riding on a massive sympathy wave following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, was at its peak.
Today, fortunes have changed. BJP is sitting pretty while the Congress is fighting for its survival. The latter can ill-afford to play and win on a pitch, which is overwhelmingly conducive to the BJP brand of ideology. That is the unwavering and religious take on the prevailing political scenario.
By V RAMU SARMA