| A man paints a billboard bearing the image of Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Ahmedabad. (AFP)
New Delhi, Nov. 28: If Narendra Modi, Praveen Togadia and other BJP-VHP stalwarts are bent upon flaunting the Hindutva card in Gujarat, Congress president Sonia Gandhi plans to woo the majority community by temple-hopping and kicking off her campaign from the Ambaji temple.
Sonia is reeling under charges of ignoring Muslim nominees, calling off iftar and indulging in what the Samajwadi Party has dubbed “competitive communalism”.
She has, however, decided to ignore the criticism for the “bigger challenge” of defeating Modi “at all costs”. She has “advised” Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to “go slow” on the release of militants, saying it can have an adverse impact on the Gujarat elections.
The Congress chief will be in Gujarat on December 3, 5, 8 and 9, and her first destination would be the Ambaji temple where she would offer puja, archana and seek darshan. Sonia would then move to Dwarka but avoid Somnath, which has been closely identified with L.K. Advani’s rath yatra in 1990.
Sonia’s managers point out that both Indira and Rajiv Gandhi were devotees of Ambaji.
“I remember Sonia accompanying Indiraji at Ambaji temple when she was an apolitical housewife. She again accompanied Rajiv Gandhi when he sought Ambaji’s blessings in the 1991 general elections,” recalled a Congress member.
Congress leaders said there is a qualitative difference between its idea of religion and the one propagated by Modi and Togadia.
“It is a conspiracy to dub the Congress anti-Hindu. In fact, since the days of Gandhji, there has been an element of religion in Congress’ political campaign. In 1989, Rajiv started his campaign from Faizabad-Ayodhya promising Ram Raj, but we are against the campaign of hate,” said a senior Congress Working Committee (CWC) member who is part of Sonia’s think-tank. The Congress leader referred to a CWC resolution adopted on January 16, 1999, which underlined the primacy of Hindu religion in India.
“The CWC unanimously endorses Sonia Gandhi’s view in her speech on the anniversary of Swami Vivekananda where she said India is a secular country because Hinduism, both as a philosophy and as a way of life, has been based on what our ancients described as ‘Ekam Satyam Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti’,” read the resolution.
In an another development, the Congress high command has asked the party’s chief ministers to camp in various district headquarters to keep an eye on the bureaucracy. Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has been assigned Surat, while his Delhi counterpart Sheila Dikshit would look after Ahmedabad where Modi is contesting. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has been given charge of Rajkot, while Chattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi would camp in Baroda.
Surprisingly, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh’s name does not figure in the list. Ostensibly, he is being kept out in view of his “unpopularity” in Gujarat because of the Sardar Sarovar dam project.
The AICC general secretary incharge of Gujarat, KamalNath, hails from Madhya Pradesh and the political rivalry between Digvijay and Nath is being cited as the “real reason” for keeping the Madhya Pradesh chief minister out.