Our leaders have respect for all religions, says State Congress leader
Ahead of the second phase of polling in 39 seats of Assam on April 1, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday offered prayers at Guwahati’s Kamakhya temple, the most revered shrine in the State.
Sharing pictures of his visit, Mr. Gandhi tweeted that the Congress is with the people of Assam in their struggle for respect and progress.
Mr. Gandhi’s visit, however, has been carefully crafted to counter the BJP attack on the Congress for its alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
The BJP, that has always targeted the AIUDF for ‘protecting’ undocumented immigrants, is accusing the Congress of working against the interest of indigenous communities and appeasing the minorities.
Mr. Ajmal has been the single point of attack for the BJP to generate insider-outsider narrative in addition to the BJP’s development plank.
And behind such a strategy lies some complex poll arithmetic.
In the 2016 Assembly polls, the BJP and its allies, Asom Gana Parishad had won more than half (40) of the 79 seats that will vote in the second and the third phases.
But there are significant changes now as the Congress-AIUDF alliance gives the Mahajot an advantage in close to 30 seats, where the Muslim community is a decisive factor.
The Bodo People’s Front (BPF), a former ally of the BJP that had swept all 12 seats in the Bodo Territorial Region in the 2016 elections, is now part of the Congress-led Mahajot.
Apart from banking on an impressive performance in Upper Assam and North Bank areas that voted in phase I, the BJP is reaching out to different voting segments such as indigenous communities, tribals and Bengali Hindus in the remaining phases.
To counter a polarising narrative, the Congress has opted for visible temple visits by its top leaders.
Earlier, party general secretary Priyanka Vadra started her Assam with a visit to the Kamakhya shrine and followed it up with a visit to the birthplace of 15th century Vaishnavite saint Srimanta Sankardev.
Mr. Gandhi too started his second leg of campaign with a visit to the shrine to blunt the BJP’s attack of “minority appeasement”.
“While the BJP talks about Ajmal, they forget that there are eight other parties including tribal parties that are supporting the Mahajot. As far as our leaders visiting ‘mandirs’ and “namghars/xatras” [monastery], they have respect for all religions,” said an Assam Congress leader.
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