Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday offered prayers at a temple of Lord Ayyappa and a Muslim shrine dedicated to Vavarswami at Erumeli, an important centre connected to Sabarimala pilgrimage, as he slammed the BJP-RSS and LDF while campaigning in Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Idukki districts.
The Congress leader hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS, accusing them of dividing people on the lines of religion.
Speaking at an election rally organised in front of the two places of worship situated on two sides of the road at Erumeli in Kottayam district, Gandhi hailed the practice of people visiting the Vavar mosque and the Ayyappa temple at Erumeli before heading to the Sabarimala temple.
“To live happily and peacefully and protect each others interests–this idea is the biggest gift you can give to this country today,” he said.
Wearing the traditional black dress and bead-chain and smearing ‘bhasmam’, the holy ash, on forehead, chest and arms, Hindu pilgrims visit the mosque and offer prayers, reviving the local myth of Lord Ayyappa’s friendship with Vavar, a Muslim saint, during the two-month long annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
Gandhi accused the Prime Minister and the RSS of dividing people on the lines of religion.
“This is the idea that is under attack in India. Our Prime Minister and the RSS spends their whole time and whole life trying to dig up this road (the road to religious harmony). They create hatred and anger so that people who believe in one idea fight with people who believe in the other idea,” Gandhi alleged, speaking from the top of a roofless campaign vehicle.
He claimed India’s inherent pluralism is under attack from the RSS-BJP which has blocked socio-economic progress.
“We have to rid our country of this divisive hurdle,” he said.
Gandhi’s Erumeli visit comes at a time when the opposition parties are targeting the state’s CPI(M)-led LDF over Sabarimala women entry issue in the election campaign.
Kerala had witnessed massive protests during the Sabarimala pilgrimage season in 2018 following the state government’s decision to implement a Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups into the hill shrine.
The LDF, particularly CPI(M), had drawn flak from several quarters over the women’s entry issue for its alleged hastiness in implementing the order.
Later, addressing an election meeting at Puttady in Idukki district, Gandhi urged the people not to support an ideology “that divides the country, that spreads hatred, anger.”
“Support an ideology that’s affectionate, that believes in brotherhood and in bringing people together. That is why you should support the UDF and the Congress.”
Earlier, addressing corner meetings at various constituencies in Pathanamthitta district, Gandhi claimed the Congress-UDF manifesto is a people’s manifesto, a manifesto which will give wings to citizens’ dreams.
“First thing we’ll do is bring in NYAY scheme. It’s not a gift or charity, it’s how we’ll start Kerala’s economy. This is an acceptance that only people of Kerala can start its economy. We’ll put Rs 6,000 per month into poor people’s bank accounts,” he said.
Noting that without money in people’s hands, the economy can’t start, the Congress leader alleged that the BJP-led NDA and LDF had been taking money from people’s hands-through demonetisation, GST, farm bills and “everytime you pay for fuel they take money out of your pockets.”
“How do they expect the economy to run?” he asked.
Gandhi said Kerala and UDF will together triumph over hatred and divisiveness, and will together uphold the idea of India.
“You should vote for a prosperous future for Kerala and whatever you do, do not vote for people who spread hatred and who divide India, who make one brother fight with another brother,” he told the gathering.