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What do Rahul Gandhi's temple visits tell us about the Congress

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:01 IST

The complex relationship between religion and politics in India is at a crucial turn today. Apart from the attack on minority faiths by the ruling right's rogue elements, this is a rare moment in India's history when topmost leaders of the government as well as the Opposition are visiting temples in their official capacity and making a public statement out of it.

BJP leaders have been known to do so and therefore Prime Minister Narendra Modi's much-publicised visits to temples is not surprising. However, Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi has also caught up with the trend.

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The Guru Gaddi temple in Girodhpuri was among the prominent places Rahul visited during his recent tour to Chhattisgarh. His office released pictures of him praying inside the temple, receiving blessings from the priest and then coming out wearing a tulsi garland around his neck.

This is not the first time Rahul visited a temple and made that public. However, what is interesting is these visits appear to be on the upswing in the last two years, after Modi assumed power.

One can only hazard a guess whether this is a conscious strategy by Congress high-command to silence those in the party who felt that they lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections because of the party's perceived bias towards minorities.

Here is a look at some of Rahul's much-publicised temple visits in the last two years. Before Chhattisgarh's Guru Gaddi temple, other temples he has visited include the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, Kamakhya temple in Assam and Badrinath and Kedarnath temples in Uttarakhand.

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Rahul Gandhi with head priest Bheemashankar Ling at the Kedarnath shrine on 24 April 2015. Photo: Vinay Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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Rahul at Kedarnath. Photo: File

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At the Guru Gaddi Temple. Photo: File

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Rahul Gandhi at Kamakhya. Photo: PTI

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At Kheer bhawani. Photo: Twitter/Congress

It is worthwhile to remember that the A K Antony internal committee, set up to find out reasons for the defeat, had reportedly given a similar assessment. Since 2014, observers have been pointing out at various indications that the party keeps giving of its new-found love for Hindu temples, gods and saints, in a bid to attract Hindu voters and correct its image of being a party only of the religious minorities.

Last August, the party had also organised a Chintan Shivir in Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, forcing analysts to wonder whether subsequent events will be held in Varanasi and Ayodhya.

Edited by Joyjeet Das

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First published: 22 March 2016, 2:25 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.