Even if the Congress has lost the election in Gujarat, the new tilak-sporting janeu-wearing incarnation of Rahul Gandhi has been a hit with the electorate.
The controversy created over Mr Gandhi’s name being entered in a register meant for non-Hindus came a cropper with the Congress winning all four seats in Gir Somnath district — Talala, Kodinar, Una and Somnath.
The benefits of soft Hindutva unveiled in these polls by the newly-minted president of the Congress party got the party some gains.
Rahul Gandhi began his campaign from the famous Dwarkadheesh temple and visited many more, including the Chotila temple in Surendranagar district, Kodhaldham Districttemple in Rajkot, Dwarkadheesh temple in in Dwarka, Ranchodji temple in Kheda district and Akshardham and Jagannath temples in Ahmedabad.
He also paid obeisance at the Shankeshwar Jain temple, Bahucharaji temple and another at Varana. His daywhich day? ended with a public meeting at Visnagar in Mehsana district. The Congress maintained that the temple run was not a message but rather a part of Mr Gandhi’s personal life.
“For Rahul Gandhi, religion is faith, not politics. This is the difference from the BJP,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said. During a press conference in Ahmedabad Mr Gandhi had said that he was a ‘Shiv Bhakt’ and his visit to the Kedarnath shrine had not created any controversy. But his temple visits in Gujarat had.
In a perceptible shift, the Congress has avoided a narrative which the party described as “polarising”, assiduously avoiding the region issue.
In all Mr Gandhi campaigned for 22 days from September 25 in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.