Party leaders embark on temple runs ahead of elections in MP, Rajasthan

From Congress president Rahul Gandhi to Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah to chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje, temple visits are an integral party of campaign itineraries.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2018 12:21 IST
Punya Priya Mitra
Punya Priya Mitra
Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Rajasthan elections,Madhya Pradesh elections,Shivraj Singh Chouhan
During the course of his two and half month campaign Rahul Gandhi visited 27 temples.(HT Photo)

As elections near, temples have become preferred destinations for political parties.

From Congress president Rahul Gandhi to Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah to chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje, temple visits are an integral party of campaign itineraries.

For instance, Gandhi will launch his party’s Rajasthan campaign from the Khatu Shyamji temple in Sikar this month and the Madhya Pradesh campaign from the Omkareshwar temple in Khandwa district in the first week of September.

Shah will flag Raje’s Rajasthan Gaurav Yatra from from Charbhuja temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, in Udaipur on August 4. Raje herself plans to visit temples in all seven divisions of Rajasthan during her month long yatra.

According to local BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is in the midst of the Jan Ashirvad Yatra at present, tries to visit the most important temple of the area he is campaigning in, and also has abiding faith in the powers of the Mahakaal temple in Ujjain.

Madhya Pradesh’s temples are also popular with Congress leaders including state party president Kamal Nath and head of the election campaign committee Jyotiraditya Scindia.

The day after Kamal Nath took charge as the Madhya Pradesh Congress president, on May 1, he went to the Mahakaal temple and topped it up with a visit to Datia’s Peetambara Shaktipeeth. His poll campaign started from a tour of the Vindhya region on August 1, and he began with a visit to Ma Sharda temple in Maihar. Jyotiraditya Scindia started his Parivartan Yatra on May 11 with an elaborate two hour long pooja at the Mahakaal temple. The rally lasted for a week and he covered Dhar, Indore and Sehore districts where he visited local temples wherever he got a chance. Madhya Pradesh’s leader of the opposition Ajay Singh started the second phase of his Nyay Yatra with former Congress president Arun Yadav from Chitrakoot after a visit to Kamta Nath temple, dedicated to Lord Ram.

In Rajasthan, both state Congress president Sachin Pilot and former chief minister Ashok Gehlot have visited several temples in the past few months. Some Congressmen say party leaders have always been visiting temples but that these are being highlighted since Rahul Gandhi started his Gujarat election campaign from the Dwarkadheesh temple in Dwarka on September 25, 2017. During the course of his two and half month campaign Rahul Gandhi visited 27 temples.

Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said as much: “Many Congress leaders are religious as it is in our ‘sanskar’ and ‘sanskriti’, unlike the BJP who use it as an instrument for political gain. Congressmen and religion have a long association. Don’t forget that freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak started the Ganesh Utsav in Maharashtra in a big way.” BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said political leaders going to temples is not new in Madhya Pradesh so Rahul Gandhi’s visiting Omkareshwar temple won’t have an impact on the electorate.

“The main issue is minority appeasement, regarding which Congress has no defence,” Agrawal said. Such visits do have some impact on voters, said Sona Shukla, head of the political science department at Government Hamidia Arts and Commerce College, Bhopal. Otherwise, they would have stopped visiting the temples, Shukla added.

-- With inputs from Jaipur bureau

First Published: Aug 04, 2018 11:18 IST