As Congress leader Rahul Gandhi walked to the Vaishno Devi shrine on Thursday, it was his 11th pilgrimage in 10 years, from Vindhyachal to Vaishno Devi. But the Congress’ political fortunes are not reviving since the election debacle of 2014.
Rahul Gandhi told reporters, “I have come here to offer prayers to Mata and I don’t want to make any political comments.”
He had travelled to Vindhyachal, Kashi Vishwanath in 2015, Kedarnath in 2016, to Hanuman Garhi in Ayodhya in 2017, Somnath and Jagannath Mandir during the Gujarat Assembly polls, Mahakal in 2018, Tirupati Balaji in 2019, Kamakhya Temple in 2021 and now to Vaishno Devi.
He had also gone to Kailash Mansarovar in 2018 after completing the election tour in Karnataka and claimed to be a Shiv Bhakt.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party has attacked Gandhi and said that it’s token Hindutva, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked why the BJP gets upset when Rahul Gandhi walks to the shrine… if the Prime Minister wants to go, Rahul Gandhi will give a helping hand.
The Congress leader has often been on pilgrimages but his critics say that the Congress’ fortunes are not reviving politically ever since the party’s electoral defeat in 2014. The party has lost two consecutive general elections and polls in states where it was in power. It lost elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Puducherry and Assam.
In 2018, it could win three states ruled by the BJP — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — but the government in Madhya Pradesh fell after the rebellion of Jyotiraditya Scindia. Now it has governments only in Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and is part of a coalition in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
Apart from electoral losses, Rahul Gandhi faced rebellion within the party as a group of 23 leaders in the Congress wrote to the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi and demanded an effective and visible leadership in the party. Many leaders close to Rahul Gandhi left the party, including Scindia and Jitin Prasada, while Sachin Pilot revolted only to come back.