Congress walks a tightrope on temple

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi  

Moments after Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed the bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya on Wednesday, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted about Lord Ram embodying the finest human values, and who would never stand with “hate, cruelty and injustice”.

But unlike his sister and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Mr. Gandhi, who is a Lok Sabha member from Wayanad in Kerala, did not refer to the bhoomi pujan.

The tweet reflected a tricky path some in the Congress are walking on temple politics.

In Kerala, where the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is an ally of the Congress, the party wants to make a distinction between an inclusive Hindu philosophy and the strident Hindutva identified with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But in North India, most leaders have openly and visibly embraced the temple construction event and it is being seen more as a matter of “course correction”.

Following the 2014 poll debacle, when the Congress was reduced to 44 seats, senior leader A. K. Antony had submitted an internal report where he is learnt to have talked about a “public perception” in which Congress was seen as a party for minorities.

The party never made the report public but its impact was clearly seen in how the party handled Assembly election campaigns.

On Tuesday, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Kamal Nath, held a Hanuman Chalisa recitation and announced that the Congress would offer 11 silver bricks for the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.

Some Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Salman Khurshid, however, did make a fine point with their tweets.

Referring to the court order on the temple-mosque dispute, Mr. Khurshid tweeted, “The temple is welcome but one should remember the court also ordered the mosque to be built. The Prime Minister should support both as it is the heritage of secularism. Faith in religion and faith in the Constitution.”

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