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Rahul, Modi spar over soft Hindutva in Gujarat elections

Saturday, December 02, 2017
By Prakash Bal Joshi

With its call for "Dharma Yudhha" the ​Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi​ seems to be adopting soft Hindutva line of campaigning ​in Gujarat in view of polarised mind set of voters in the state and BJP's strategy to woo majority voters in the state with its hardline image and policies.

​Rahul has been visiting temple after temple during his ​​campaigning in Gujrat state assembly elections and taking care not to be seen as one appeasing minority during his speeches . However , his visit to the famous Somnath temple in Gujarat ​has kicked off a ​controversial note as ​the BJP alleged that ​he was​ had listed as a ‘non-Hindu’ in the register.

Controversy rages in social media
​The Congress has been trying to explain that Rahul is a Hindu as he performed last rites of Rajiv after his assassination and wear "Janeu" as well but the controversy has been raging in the social media and during media interactions by not only the Congress and the BJP but other parties have also joined the issue for this unsavoury ​controversy mudding the already vitiated election campaign in the state going in for state assembly elections. For both the parties , the BJP as well as the Congress the outcome of the elections is very important as it will set a trend for the ensuing general elections for the Lok Sabha scheduled in year 2019 hardly one-and-half year away. ​The BJP wants to maintain its stance that the political climate generated during year 2014 elections still persists so that it can reap rich harvest in year 2019 as well however , the Congress is giving its best as Rahul will be taking over as the Congress president in December and set a winning trend. The Congress knows that it is uphill task to win elections in Gujarat despite anti-incumbency factor due to many elements, it wants to reduce the margin with which the BJP had won the elections last time. Even this will be treated as a success by the party which has failed to reverse the trend during so many elections and bye elections held in the country in different parts since 2014 elections. Rahul hopes that Gujarat which is home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will show the way to stage a come back.

The Congress ​knows that the controversy over temple entry claiming Rahul as non-Hindu will be prove very costly in the surcharged atmosphere. the party spokesperson have clarified that ​the party’s media coordinator Manoj Tyagi had only signed on a blank temple register to facilitate the entry of media ​persons who accompanied Rahul but ​later ​​Rahul's ​name was mentioned along with Ahmed Patel in the column meant for non-Hindus in the temple register​.

This has snowballed into a major controversy where the BJP supporters on the social media has questioned faith of Rahul and alleged that for the Congress , the religion was not faith but it was political convenience. How can he be claimed to be devotee of Shiva when there is so much of confusion about his religion, they questioned. The Congress has hit back at the BJP saying that this kind of controversy was invented by the BJP which is now aware of disillusionment of voters in Gujarat who would not be voting for the party. The party claimed that there was no confusion about Rahul's religion and it was boggy created by those forces who have also been questioning Sonia Gandhi over her foreign origin. That does not stop voters from supporting the UPA led by Sonia Gandhi to win the elections and rule the country for so long the Congress points out .

The Congress ​has dubbed the Somnath temple ​controversy as a conspiracy​ which will not succeed as the voters are shrewd who can find out the truth. Congress chief spokesperson ​​Randeep Surjewala ​went one step ahead and said, “We have no hesitation in saying that Rahul Gandhi is not only a Hindu but wears a sacred thread.” ​The Congress even issued a image of a portion of visitors' register where Rahul said this an inspiring place . ​

A controversy broke out  over Rahul Gandhi's visit to Gujarat's famed Somnath temple, after his name was reportedly listed in the register of non-Hindu visitors.The​ famous pilgrim place of Lord Shiva, the Somnath temple ​has always been barred ​for non-Hindus and temple authorities give special permission for entry to non-Hindus on request.

​Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is the main campaigner for the BJP also could not desist from taking a pot shot at Rahul over the temple controversy. He pointed out that even great grand father of Rahul , former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was also against ​reconstruction of the temple undertaken by Sardar Patel after independence. the temple had been attacked and ruined several times by invaders.He asked Rahul whether he had forgotten that his family members had opposed reconstruction on of the temple.

The temple administration ​has washed its hands of the controversy saying that Rahul's name was written in the shrine's register for non-Hindus by his media coordinator ​adding that none of its staff was involved in the entire episode ​.

The religion of a leader has suddenly become very important issue in the heat of the electioneering campaign. The Congress which has adopted soft Hindutva line also thinks that it is time to flaunt its Hindu roots. The Congress spokesperson not only said that Rahul is a true Hindu and that too he wears Janeu to show that he is devotee Hindu. The spokesperson who flaunted the fact that Rahul is a Brahmin ​by pointing out to his Janeu has also come under attack from various sections.

Development issue takes backseat
What has happened to the debate on the issue of development which was suppose to be main plank of campaigning by both the parties. Even before the campaign began, the Congress had captured imagination of people with its campaign based on "Vikas Gando Thayo " (development has become mad). The BJP had also become little weary about the impact of such viral social media campaign which had sought imagination of the people over the main issue of the campaign. The BJP had tough time in contesting the claim of the Congress that there was no development in the state despite two decades of rule in the state.

​Rahul Gandhi's hit out at the GST describing it as a Gabbar Sing Tax also become viral and the party had no clarification on the issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi ​took note of Rahul's criticism and hit out at Rahul during one of his campaign rally in Gujarat questioning Rahul Gandhi for calling the GST as Gabbar Sing Tax . ​He added that those who looted the country for a decade could not think anything else than dacoits since they themselves looted the common people during one decade of UPA raj .

​Both Rahul and Modi are not averse to using their platforms to create sensational drama which is ultimately aimed at winning over voters to their side in the battle royal for power. During one of his rallies, Modi, stopped his speech for about two minutes when 'aazan', the call for Muslims to offer Namaz, was recited ​to show respect to Muslims. Taking potshot at Modi, Rahul claimed that he was far better actor than Amitabh Bachchan since Modi does not require contact lenses to bring out tears , he can shed tears without any such method to make emotional appeal to voters.

The question is have both the parties given up issue of development and given into emotional religious issues in the election campaign in gujrati to win over voters.

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