Temple Run: Hard Lessons For Congress President Rahul Gandhi's 'soft Hindutva' India News
Rahul Gandhi's temple run brought him close to softening, what Sonia Gandhi called, the "pro-Muslim" image of Congress as caricatured by BJP. In Gujarat last December, it had helped Congress rise above the ceiling that BJP under 15 years of Narendra Modi had imposed on its performance.
Karnataka saw Rahul continuing his visits to Hindu holy places, especially to Lingayat 'mutts' during three months of an intensive campaign but this time questions remain on how effective the strategy was with the party finishing well behind BJP.
Congress laid much store by its chief's strategy to visit temples to preempt any rival bid to polarise the electorate in a state with a history of communal mobilisation in some areas. In fact, an aggressive Rahul said BJP was worried by his temple visits.
What may have undercut Rahul's "soft Hindutva" approach was the Siddaramaiah government's high-stakes gamble to recommend minority status for the Lingayat community. Caught off guard initially, BJP came up with a counter: it said this was a Congress attempt to divide Hindus and deny the tallest Lingayat leader, its CM nominee B S Yeddyurappa, the top post.
On its own too, the saffron camp powered by PM Narendra Modi did not spare the issues it thought it could milk for communal appeal - it worked hard to paint Tipu Sultan's commemoration by the Siddaramaiah government as "appeasement" politics. Modi himself raised the issue in his rallies. The party also accused the CM of being soft on Popular Front of India - a controversial Muslim outfit.
What may also have vitiated the atmosphere for Congress was the decision in the run-up to polls to release "innocent" minorities from jail which was hastily shelved but which embarrassed the party. An accumulation of such divisive planks may have diluted the effect of Rahul's temple run.