The Congress president will visit temples in Karnataka and, to maintain a balance, will offer prayers at dargahs in Bengaluru.
New Delhi: After the successful temple run in Gujarat, Congress president Rahul Gandhi is expected to continue employing the soft Hindutva strategy in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state and poll-bound Karnataka.
Mr Gandhi had tactically used his visits to Gujarat temples during campaigning to help his party negate the “minority appeaser” jibes of the BJP. He is now slated to offer prayers at Somnath temple in Gujarat on December 22 as part of his state visit for attending the Gujarat Congress Committee’s meeting to discuss the election results.
The Congress chief’s second round of temple run would be in Karnataka, where Assembly elections are expected to be held in May next year.
Some of the temples, the Congress president could visit in Karnataka include the famed Adi Chunchungiri Temple and Matha in Nagamangala, Mangaladevi Temple, Mookambika temple in Kollur, Kukke Subramanya and Manjunatha temple at Dharmasthala with the main aim being to woo the BJP's strong Lingayat upper caste base. To maintain a balance, the Congress president would also offer prayers at dargahs in Bengaluru. The Congress is in no mood to ignore the minorities as the state has nearly 13 per cent of Muslim population. The minorities are also considered to be a deciding factor in northern Karnataka.
Congress insiders revealed that while the party would play the soft Hindutva card it would not alienate the minorities. The party would, however, remain “neutral” on Ram Mandir issue and “accept” the court verdict.
It was pointed out that in Gujarat the Congress had unleashed a double-pronged strategy to take on the BJP. While Mr Gandhi wooed the Hindus with his temple run, the party through its social coalition had cleverly played the KHAM — Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim — card.
As far as Mr Gandhi’s visits to temples are concerned, Congress pundits are of the opinion that there is a need to send a signal to Hindu voters as BJP has successfully branded the Congress as a pro-minority outfit.
The Congress president would now aggressively target the Hindutva vote bank of the saffronites.
The pro-Hindu image is expected to work for the Congress during elections in saffron-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The Muslim population in Madhya Pradesh is 6.6 per cent, in Chhattisgarh it is two per cent and in Rajasthan it is around 9 per cent.
To maintain a balance, in states with considerable Muslims population like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra and Jharkhand the Congress would toe a middle path and harp on its “embrace all” policy. In these states, Mr Gandhi would also actively interact with Muslim community leaders. While Muslim leaders like Ahmed Patel and others were kept in the background in Gujarat, Congress’ minority leaders would be brought to the forefront in states where Muslims are a deciding factor, sources said.
Due to the BJP’s anti-minority image, Muslims in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh “have no option but to vote for the Congress,” said one of the party’s spin doctors.
It is also being felt that after its poor performance in Gujarat, the BJP could now raise the pitch on Ram Mandir, uniform civil code, triple talaq and cow slaughter, among other contentious issues.
“There is a need to counter the BJP and the only way to do it is to regain the confidence of the majority votebank,” a Congress leader said.