Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
Days after Rahul Gandhi returned from a pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar, the party’s Madhya Pradesh unit bestowed a title of ‘Shiv Bhakt’ on the Congress president — a move seen as the party’s attempt to reach out to Hindu voters ahead of the Assembly elections, due later this year.
Several hoardings welcoming ‘Shiv Bhakt Rahul Gandhiji’ have come up in Bhopal, just two days before his scheduled arrival in the city to launch the Congress’s election campaign. Rahul will address party workers during the visit.
The Congress had recently announced that it would turn the state into a hub of religious tourism, develop a purported route taken by Lord Rama on his way to 14 years’ exile and create facilities along the route of Narmada Parikrama.
While the party insisted that there was nothing wrong in the ‘Shiv Bhakt’ nomenclature – because its leader had been visiting temples for a long time – the BJP has ridiculed the “religious makeover” as a pre-poll exercise in a state where the Congress has been out of power for nearly 15 years.
“This is the same party that questioned the existence of Lord Rama. Its workers in Kerala were found relishing beef, but the party did not act against them,” Minister of State for Cooperatives Vishwas Sarang said on Saturday.
The Minister said Rahul was welcome to MP, but asked why he would share the dais with PCC chief and former Union Minister Kamal Nath, who they claim was involved in the anti-Sikh riots.
“He talks a lot about hate, love and dislike, but at the same time he is ready to share the dais with a man involved in anti-Sikh riots,’’ Sarang said while referring to the objection put up by Congress’s Punjab unit when Nath was made in-charge of that state in 2016.
Calling the allegations against Nath baseless, Congress leader Narendra Saluja said the BJP’s top leadership was accused of involvement in 2002 Gujarat riots. “Instead of raking up old and unsubstantiated allegations, the party should debate on development,’’ Saluja said. He added that former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur had recently lauded the development model in Chhindwara constituency, represented by Nath in Lok Sabha.