Rahul Gandhi’s trek to Kedarnath is loaded with political symbolism, particularly in view of the Narendra Modi-led BJP having more or less established itself as the sole voice of the Hindu community. The Congress vice president, who has been back in action with a bang, looks keen on dispelling the perception that the Congress is indifferent to Hindus. Till a few months ago, any comparison between the two was laughable, but the Congress is ready with a plan to counter Modi’s image as Hindutva’s poster boy.
So far the Gandhi scion has lacked consistency which has led to a trust deficit amongst the people and his own party workers in general. But insiders claim Rahul is unfazed and is going about his task in a meticulous manner.
While most of the party focus was on the farmers rally on 19th April just days after his return from a long leave, he was quietly planning his next move with a select few. That move would not only catch everyone off guard, but also add a personal dimension to his political personality. The trek to Kedarnath was a key visit in his burgeoning itinerary for the next few months.
Not many people can take the arduous climb to the holy shrine on foot, and being there when the doors (kapaat) to the temple open has its own significant meaning in Hinduism.
When Rahul stood next to the priest with folded hands with snow covered mountains around, he had driven home the point. It was a personal visit loaded with symbolism, with a bonus of being able to taunt BJP while maintaining a straight face.
Something that Congress has not been able to do for a long time now. While most political observers were busy slamming Rahul for inaction and not being able to draw a cohesive roadmap for Congress’ revival over the past year, the Hindutva question kept troubling him.
“Rahulji met and interacted with most leaders and realized that BJP had managed to project a pro Hindu image without actually doing anything for them. As a result, the Congress was at the receiving end,” said a senior Congress member.
“There was urgent need to bust this myth, and it will be a top priority in the days to come,” he confided.
So when a Sakshi Maharaj blamed Congress vice president’s impurity for the recent Nepal earthquake that has left the Himalayan country in shambles, Congress took potshots against Modi himself. “The PM and Amit Shah should stop perpetuating rabid politics that has reached levels of denigrating Bhagwan Kedarnath himself through their selected cohorts,” said Sushmita Dev, Congress spokesperson.
“All that the Congress needs to do is to provoke a few more wild allegations like Sakshi Maharaj to show the BJP brand of Hindutva in poor light and blame Modi for it,” said a senior leader on condition of anonymity. Congress’ media department is keeping a hawk eye on all such developments and any hate comments made by senior BJP leaders to embarrass the saffron brigade.
With the BJP already on the back foot over the 2015 Land Acquisition Bill, the Congress president has managed to keep the Opposition united. Rahul plans to take the issue a level higher by planning to embark on a long “padyatra” across the country in the next few weeks that will cover Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. It will play an important part in not just re-shaping Rahul Gandhi’s pro-poor image, but also sending a subtle message of negating BJP’s propaganda of Congress being perceived as “anti-Hindu”.
The Congress is hoping to make a punch a double hole in Modi’s agenda by exposing lack of development and Hindutva both. The strategy seems well planned with its target chosen in advance, now it is all about delivering at the right move.