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Hindu gotra to Muslim schemes, Cong ‘tweaks’ image 

New Delhi: After the 2014 Lok Sabha election drubbing, the Congress is openly experimenting with its secularism depending on the audience in sight.

From flaunting its chief’s “gotra” in election-bound Rajasthan to proposing “Muslim-only” schemes in poll-bound Telangana, the grand old party is pulling all stops to appeal to the voters it seeks to tap. For once it seems unapologetic about all what it is doing.

“Manifesto in a certain area must reflect the sentiments of the people of that area. After all, any political party will want to address in its manifesto the aspirations of the residents of that area. That’s the purpose of a manifesto,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said today defending Congress’ draft manifesto in Telangana after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley attacked the principal opposition party’s “for Muslim only” doles saying the Constitution does not allow discrimination on the basis of religion. 

Congress’ draft manifesto in Telangana speaks of building hospitals for Muslims and providing other services to the minority community on grounds that the community has been left behind in the race for development.

While the BJP attacked the Congress frontally today for “playing divisive politics”, as stated by Jaitley, the Congress defended its move saying it was obliged to mirror in its manifesto the demands of local constituents.

That explains the Congress strategy to shift the goal post from state to state.

In the Hindi heartland of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly exhibited his “Hindu credentials” going to the extent of revealing his “gotra” yesterday when a priest in Pushkar declared “Rahul Gandhi is a Kashmiri Brahmin and his gotra is Dattatreya”.

In Madhya Pradesh which votes tomorrow, Congress has gone all out to play cow politics to take the zing away from the BJP’s “Hindutva” laced narrative. Accordingly the party manifesto in MP speaks of building ‘gaushalas’. Where the minority matters, as in Rajasthan, Gandhi made it a point to pay obeisance at Ajmer Sharif yesterday.

A senior Congress leader said the party was treading well by ensuring Rahul Gandhi made frequent visits to temples and to other shrines where it matters—like he visited a gurdwara in Chhattisgarh and the Ajmer dargah.

“The message we are giving is of inclusion. The Congress does not belong to one faith. It belongs to all. Ahead of the 2014 LS polls there was a perception that Congress was overtly leaning towards Muslims. That needed to be corrected because it was not real. The BJP’s aggressive Hindutva push needed to be countered while keeping the Congress’ fundamental values intact,” a senior leader said today hoping that Congress’ new plan to tweak its religious image from state to state will yield electoral benefits. Whether that happens remains to be seen on December 11.

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