Rahul Gandhi ends family's vanvas from Ayodhya, but gives Ram a miss
Rahul Gandhi became the first member of Gandhi family to visit Ayodhya on Friday, since the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.
On the fourth day of his 2500-km Deoria-Delhi Kisan Yatra the Congress vice-president paid obeisance at the famous Hanuman Garhi temple in Ayodhya. But keeping with the party's soft Hindutva policy as opposed to BJP's hard-line, Rahul scrupulously avoided visiting the makeshift Ram temple, barely a kilometre away.
The approach is in keeping with the Brahmin-centric electoral policy being pursued by the party for the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. But, at the same time, Rahul Gandhi has tried to convey a message of secularism to the Muslims
The Gandhi scion did not make any statement on the controversial issue and embarked on his road show in Faizabad immediately after "darshan".
For the record, there were no farmers around when Rahul visited the temple and the road show in the twin town of Faizabad was more about waving at crowds than collecting maang patras (demand letters) from farmers.
Playing it right
Mahant of the temple Gyan Das said that Rahul "came to seek my blessings". He blessed the Congress leader and blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) playing politics over Ram temple construction.
Gyan Das has fallen out with the VHP and is now considered close to the Samajwadi Party.
As a balancing act, Rahul was expected to visit the Kichhchhauchha Sharif Dargah in Ambedkar Nagar later in the day.
As history goes
Twenty-six years ago, in 1990, Rajiv Gandhi undertook a Sadbhavna Yatra and planned to visit Hanuman Garhi but could not go there due to his hectic schedule although he was in Faizabad. Rajiv was assassinated the next year.
Sonia Gandhi has been to Faizabad several times to campaign for her party during elections but has not visited Ayodhya ever since the mosque was demolished by kar sewaks in a brazen display of religious frenzy.
If sources are to be believed, Indira Gandhi was the only one from the family to visit the holy city in 1960 for a development project.
Beginning with the unlocking of the temple gates in 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister, to the demolition of Babri Masjid when Narasimha Rao was heading the Centre, it all led to the decimation of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh as Muslims lost faith in the oldest national party.
Rajiv Gandhi's decision was described as an attempt to mollify Hindus after he had caved in due to the pressure from Muslim zealots in the Shah Bano case.
After the demolition, the party initially lost the electoral advantage in the state to the BJP and later to the Samajwadi Party, which emerged as the sole protector of Muslims and their interests.
The party's rejection by Hindus, who snuggled up to the BJP and the Muslims was such that even after nearly a quarter century of the mosque's demolition, the Congress is struggling to revive its fortunes in the state.
But will this attempt of the Congress leader to reposition the party as a secular score over hard-line, vigilante brand of Hinduism and attract Muslims who also look at the Bahujan Samaj Party as an alternative?
At least, this kind of balancing act did not work for his Rahul's father, who had angered the Hindus because of his stand on Shah Bano case and the Muslims for the unlocking of Ram temple gates.
Winning back the voters' trust will be even more difficult for the Congress with a muscle-flexing BJP and the wily Mulayam as foes, not to mention Mayawati who, like a mother hen, is guarding her Dalit votes zealously.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen