Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits in Gujarat seem to have struck a raw nerve in the BJP, going by the way ruling party leaders have reacted. Apart from countering Rahul’s GST-related attacks and mocking the Congress’s negotiations with new-age leaders such as Hardik Patel, BJP leaders have made Rahul’s temple the target of a consistent attack in the last one month.
“Star campaigner of Congress Rahul Gandhi is visiting temples & offering prayers which is good as it is a part of Indian culture. However, this must come naturally to a person & not only during elections,” Bhupender Yadav, BJP general secretary-in-charge of Gujarat, said Sunday.
BJP leaders from other states, including chief ministers, too have picked on the temple visits. These have included Yogi Adityanath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, respectively the CMs of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
“As far as Rahul Gandhi’s visits to temples are concerned, I am surprised. Rahul Gandhi’s pakhand and dhong (hypocrisy and sham) are not going to work,” Adityanath said when he visited Gujarat for the BJP’s ‘Gaurav Yatra’ campaign last month.
“Now, Rahulbaba is visiting Gujarat often because elections are near. He is also offering prayers at various temples. (A person) who has never lifted a puja ki thali is applying big tilak and wearing big garlands, without having knowledge about the great culture of this country. Otherwise, he would not have commented on women [in the RSS],” Shivraj Chouhan said at the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra.
Sushil Modi, deputy chief minister of Bihar, picked up the attack Wednesday. “Temple visits to bluff the voters,” Sushil Modi tweeted Wednesday.
BJP leaders of Gujarat, meanwhile, have used Rahul’s temple visits to attack the Congress itself.
“Why is Rahul Gandhi only visiting temple ahead of elections?” Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said last week. “People know their intentions – they want to get votes by such gimmicks. They have no inclination to devotion, as Rahul had never visited any temple during his earlier trip. We wish that the Congress sheds its pseudo-secularism and respects mainstream Hindutva, but its gimmicks for votes will not work in Gujarat.”
While the BJP has steadfastly accused the Congress of “pseudo-secularism” since the early 1990s, the current attacks come when Rahul’s temple visits are being seen as an attempt to dispel the BJP’s long-time suggestions that the Congress is a party of minority appeasement. The BJP has, however, denied suggestions that the attacks betray any nervousness.
“This is not our nervousness,” Bhupender Yadav told The Indian Express in response to a question. “In fact, it is the Congress’s nervousness that their leader is visiting temples. The Congress does not have an issue in Gujarat, nor does it have a policy or a leader for Gujarat elections.”