Opinion: Temple visits & quota politics define Rahul's Gujarat pitch

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had visited the Dwarkadhish Temple in September to seek blessings of Lord Krishna as he kicked off the Gujarat campaign. Photograph:( AFP )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Dec 19, 2017, 07.21 AM (IST) Rustam Roy

Rahul Gandhi's trump card in Gujarat could well have been two-pronged: alignment with the Patidar-Dalit trio - Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mewani and playing up the "soft" Hindutva card.

The Patidar-Dalit factor no doubt dented the BJP votebank in Gujarat elections this time, in 39 Patidar-majority seats, the BJP won 24 and the Congress won 15 seats, last time in 2012, however, the BJP had won 28 seats in the Patidar-dominated areas with the Congress winning just 9 seats.

Hardik's high decibel anti-Modi campaign no doubt had an effect on the Patidar community who had witnessed large-scale quota-based reservation stir two years ago. 

The sudden rise of Alpesh Thakor, who recently joined the Congress and Jignesh Mewani, who although lost the election but swayed votes away from the BJP, helped the Congress to rally its troops on the ground and surge ahead winning 77 seats, up from 42 seats in 2012.

And of course, Rahul, basing his campaign on the slogan "When in Rome, Do as the Romans do"  very shrewdly played the Hindutva card in Gujarat. He reportedly visited at least 25 temples with Chotila temple, Khodaldham in Kagvad, Jalaram Bapa temple in Virpur and  Dasi Jivan temple near Jasdan, among several others. 

The Congress president had visited the Dwarkadhish Temple in September to seek blessings of Lord Krishna as he kicked off the Gujarat campaign.

Manish Doshi, Congress party's Gujarat spokesman was quick to side with Rahul declaring though the BJP "mocked" Rahul for his temple visits but "results" show he was able to "connect" with people.

One of the most talked about visits during the Gujarat campaign was the Congress president's visit to Umiya Mata temple in Unjha which was the epicentre of Patidar agitation. 

In the end, Congress candidate Asha Patel beat five-time BJP MLA Narayanbhai Patel by a sizable margin. UP chief minister had dismissed Rahul's temple visit as a "sham", clearly, the people of Gujarat did not think so!

Not just Gujarat, the Congress president tried the "experiment" in Uttar Pradesh during the assembly polls in May. He visited the Dugdheshwar Nath in Deoria and the Hanuman Garhi temple.

Despite this, the Congress fell short winning 77 seats, but the tie-ups with local leaders to encash the quota stir and temple runs in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh could well become the Congress party's new poll strategy in the coming state elections in Karnataka.

Watch this space... 

Rustam Roy

Rustam Roy is digital news journalist at WION. He follows election trends worldwide, football and changes sweeping the Middle Kingdom(not necessarily in that order).