A visit to several temples and religious centres by Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the course of a tour of districts as part of Congress’s campaign for the upcoming Karnataka election has been labelled an election gimmick by senior BJP leaders. The Congress chief, who is on a four-day tour of Bellary, Koppal, Raichur, Yadgir, Gulbarga and Bidar districts in north Karnataka, has stopped at several prominent temples over the past three days.
While Rahul has not explicitly stated his intent in visiting religious places during the campaign, state Congress leaders have admitted that the temple stops on the tour map are aimed at shrugging off the “anti-Hindu’’ tag on the party. Asked about his temple visits, Rahul said Monday, “I am going to spiritual places that I like — it can be a temple or a mosque.’’
The BJP has, however, labelled the visits to places like the 1,000-year-old Huligamma Temple and the 800-year-old Gavi Siddeshwar Mutt in Koppal as “fake Hinduism’’. “Before embarking on the tour of temples and mutts, they came out with a circular to control temples and mutts. I don’t know if Rahul Gandhi is visiting temples for votes or to conduct a recce,’’ BJP’s national general secretary and observer for Karnataka region P Muralidhar Rao said.
The BJP has claimed that Rahul’s visits to religious centres are an effort to cover up for a recent circular issued and later withdrawn by the state Congress government, seeking public opinion on government takeover of temples and mutts that land up in financial distress. “The visits are a hoax because they visit temples and want to appropriate their funds too,’’ Union Minister and the BJP’s Karnataka poll in-charge Prakash Javadekar told the party’s media wing in a briefing. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, during a visit to the state over the weekend, said the Congress president’s visits was “temple tourism’’ conducted with the forthcoming polls in mind.
BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje tweeted on Saturday, “Election Hindu Rahul Gandhi is on his temple/Mutt visit in Karnataka I would like to know what is his true belief? Gimmick of visiting temples can’t be used to fool Hindus, Congress Govt in power has been blatantly Anti Hindu.’’
“A fake temple run by @OfficeOfRG for a photo-op will never appeal to Kannadigas deep devotional and real connect with spiritual traditions,’’ she added. While the Congress chief has been visiting temples in north Karnataka, state BJP leaders are visiting urban slums in cities like Bengaluru and Mysuru. State BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa spent the night at a home in a slum in Bengaluru on Saturday. Following the visits, he promised that if BJP is elected to power, two crore houses with all civic amenities will be built for the urban poor by 2020.