Two local deities– the Ganga and Kedarnath–are increasingly finding mention in speeches of chief minister Harish Rawat, who is locked in a fierce political battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in poll-bound Uttarakhand.
Political observers say the CM is paddling soft Hindutva in a bid to counter the BJP that strongly raises pro-Hindu issues.
“The Congress usually tries to strike a balance between different religious groups, but now it is apparent that the chief minister is peddling soft Hindutva card in a smart way so that it does not affect the party’s minority vote bank,” said political commentator Manohar Singh.
Uttarakhand goes to polls early next year and with just months left for the elections, CM Rawat–who took over the reins of the hill state in 2014– is often heard mentioning issues that touch Hindu sentiments.
The restoration work of the Kedarnath shrine is something that Rawat boasts as one of his government’s major achievements and also never forgets to mention about the state’s role in the cleaning of the Ganga River – another major poll plank of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Why do they (the BJP) want to monopolise the Ganga? …We too are working for cleaning the Ganga,” Rawat told Hindustan Times, on being asked if he wants to “hijack” the Clean Ganga poll plank from the BJP.
In 2014, on Rawat’s initiative, the state government started a special Char Dham pilgrimage tour for senior citizens.
Over the past months, Rawat has been visible in most religious gathering in across the state, rarely missing an opportunity to attend religious functions and fairs devoted to local Hindu deities.
Uttarakhand has more than 70 % of Hindu voters, most of who prefer to vote for the BJP, especially in the hilly regions of the state.