Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, whose party has long assailed the ruling BJP for entwining politics and religion, was on Friday seen exhorting people to chant ‘Jai Mata Di‘ from a stage in Jammu.
“Jai Mata Di,” he was heard saying, somewhat tepidly with a smile, and on seemingly not receiving the desired reaction, he went “Boliye, boliye (Say, say)” before repeating the Hindu chant a little louder and getting a better response.
— ANI (@ANI) September 10, 2021
On a two-day visit to Jammu, the 51-year-old travelled to the Vaishno Devi shrine from Katra on foot on Thursday.
In videos, the Congress MP was seen walking briskly alongside pilgrims on the 14-km stretch leading to the shrine, surrounded by security personnel. Congress workers holding up party flags lined the pathway.
“I have come here to offer prayers to the Mata (mother goddess). I don’t want to make any political comments here,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters who chased him to the shrine. The media was not allowed to take their cameras.
The Congress posted videos in which the MP was seen interacting with pilgrims.
This is his second visit to Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation in August 2019 of Article 370, which gave special status to the former state. Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two territories.
Critics have pointed to a marked uptick in the Congress leader’s display of religiosity ahead of key elections with moves such as temple visits and disclosures by aides of his Brahmin ancestry.
Some like the Communist Party of India-Marxist, which has found itself allying with the Congress in several fronts at the centre and in state elections despite being rivals in Kerala, has in the past labelled these efforts as “soft Hindutva” and a feeble effort match the BJP.