Temple demolition: Congress on offensive, pips BJP in political mileage

Siddaramaiah’s uncharacteristic outburst marks a change for both his own image and that of the Congress.

Published: 17th September 2021 05:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th September 2021 05:11 AM   |  A+A-


Express News Service

MYSURU: In a deft move, the Congress stole the BJP’s thunder on the demolition of illegal religious structures in public spaces. Opposition leader Siddaramaiah went on the offensive, effectively pre-empting the BJP from exploiting the issue for political gain.

His first-mover advantage caught BJP hardliners by surprise, especially BJP MP Prathap Simha, who reluctantly appreciated Siddaramaiah for opposing the demolition drive. Simha had himself had gone hammer and tongs against the authorities.

The Mysuru district administration quietly started pulling down temples and other religious structures, complying with the Supreme Court’s directions, and Chief Secretary P Ravi Kumar’s order. The overnight demolition of Mahadevamma temple, located on the state highway in Huchagani, Nanjangud taluk, stirred the sentiments of Hindus.

Siddaramaiah’s uncharacteristic outburst marks a change for both his own image and that of the Congress. While he has projected himself as an atheist from a socialist background through his long political career, for the party, it is an adoption of ‘soft Hindutva’. 

This is in keeping with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu, and Priyanka Vadra’s temple tour before taking charge of the election campaign in Uttar Pradesh.The former chief minister, who had never raised religious issues in the past, took the lead in condemning the temple demolition, and spoke in favour of Hindu sentiments.

He alleged that officials had not consulted the people of the region, or followed due process by providing an alternative site for the temple. His demand that the temple be immediately restored ensured that the BJP does not hijack the issue. The Congress also ratcheted up the issue on social media, and claimed credit for Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai staying the demolition of temples.

With the issue catching fire, JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy strongly opposed the demolition of 93 religious structures, and questioned the government’s “double standards” and demanded a response. Not to be left out, former ministers Sa Ra Mahesh and G T Devegowda also tweeted and warned the government and district administration not to test the patience of the people. BJP MP Simha visited the demolished temple site.

According to political commentator Prof Muzaffar Assadi, the Congress leader made a mature move to stop the BJP from playing up the issue, and the party also exhibited its inclination towards soft Hindutva by responding to the people’s sentiments. KPCC spokesperson M Lakshmana said the BJP cannot claim to be the “saviours of Hindutva” as everyone, including the Congress, is against any decision that goes against the people.


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