Rahul to break from Gujarat strategy, visit Sufi shrine during Karnataka poll campaign
The Congress president had not visited a single Muslim shrine during his three-month campaign in Gujarat, although he did stop by over two dozen temples there.india Updated: Feb 09, 2018 16:14 IST
Congress president Rahul Gandhi will deviate from his Gujarat “temple run” strategy by visiting a popular Sufi shrine in Kalaburagi as part of his Karnataka election campaign on February 13.
Gandhi had not visited a single Muslim shrine during his three-month campaign in Gujarat, although he did stop by over two dozen temples there. However, his strategy for Karnataka – which goes to the polls in May – promises to be different.
Gandhi’s visit to the shrine of Khwaja Bande Nawaz, a 13th century Sufi saint, will be part of his tour of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region between February 10 and 13. A Congress stronghold comprising the districts of Ballari, Koppal, Kalaburagi, Raichur, Bidar and Yadgir, it accounts for 40 of the 224 seats in the state assembly.
Significantly, only one of the four religious sites likely to be visited by Gandhi is a temple. It is the Huligemma temple in Koppal, which holds special significance for Dalits
Gandhi will also visit the Gavisiddeshwara Mutt and Anubhava Mantapa, two religious sites revered by Lingayats. The Anubhava Mantapa, which was set up by 12th century philosopher Basaveshwara, is believed to be the world’s first Parliament.
A movement demanding separate religion status for Lingayats divorced from the Veerashaiva tradition has gained prominence in the last one year. This community was hitherto a traditional support base for the BJP, whose chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa had backed a slightly different demand (separate religion status for Lingayats and Veerashaivas as an undivided group) in the past.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwara claimed that Gandhi’s decision to visit the religious sites was not politically motivated. “There is no attempt here to play religious politics. These are sites of worship that are very dear to the people of the region,” he said.
Political analyst Narendar Pani believes otherwise. “The visit to the Anubhava Mantapa is clearly a signal of support to the Lingayats because it is directly associated with Basavanna, who holds higher significance for Lingayats than the Veerashaivas,” he said.
Pani finds Gandhi’s decision to visit Gavisiddeshwara Mutt just as interesting. “By choosing to drop by a neutral mutt, it appears as if the Congress is trying to avoid alienating the Veerashaivas too,” he said.
The political analyst said Gandhi’s decision to visit the Sufi shrine is a reflection of the differing political climes in Gujarat and Karnataka. “It seems like Rahul chose to not visit any of the dargahs in Gujarat because the atmosphere is way too polarised there. There’s no such sentiment in this state, especially its Hyderabad-Karnataka region,” he added.