Congress leader Rahul Gandhi blew kisses and waved as he passed a BJP office this morning during his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar. In a video, he was seen waving at people on the rooftop of the office, holding up BJP flags, with a big smile. Many of them were seen waving back.
Jhalawar is the home turf of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje of the BJP. Ahead of next year’s Rajasthan election, Rahul Gandhi’s yatra route cutting through a BJP stronghold is significant.
A little after 7 am, when Mr Gandhi was walking on the highway that connects to Kota, his attention was drawn to what his companions described as a “brightly lit house” and several people standing on the terrace.
It turned out to be the office of BJP MP Dushyant Singh, the son of Vasundhara Raje. The building was decorated with lights and BJP flags. Right outside it was a giant billboard starring Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president JP Nadda, Vasundhara Raje and Dushyant Singh.
Mr Gandhi was seen blowing kisses at the banner and he reportedly urged others in his entourage to do the same.
Sachin Pilot, who was walking with him, and minister Ram Lal Jat took the cue and waved.
राहुल जी की लोकप्रियता 💪🏻❤️🔥
राहुल जी और भारत जोड़ो यात्रा का स्वागत व अभिवादन करने भाजपा ऑफिस की छतों पर सुबह 6 बजे से खड़े भाजपाई !!
हर दिल को जोड़ेंगे 🤗 pic.twitter.com/du03aAf9G3
— Rajasthan Youth Congress (@Rajasthan_PYC) December 6, 2022
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh was asked about the kisses.
“This is Rahul Gandhi’s style, you should not read too much into it. He has welcomed people from different parts of the political spectrum,” said Mr Ramesh, pointing out that he had even invited a worker of the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor and an outfit that the Congress MP has slammed often.
Mr Gandhi later wrote on Facebook: “No malice, no anger, no resentment – none of this is in the hearts of Bharat yatris. What they have is a desire to unite India, compassion for the sufferings of Indians and love for all citizens.”
He also said anyone was free to join his march.
A day before the smiles and kisses, Mr Gandhi had targeted the BJP and the RSS, asking why they didn’t chant “Jai Siya Ram” and “Hey Ram” instead of “Jai Shri Ram”. It smacked of misogyny, the Congress MP suggested, setting off a war of words.
Mr Gandhi is given to spontaneous PDA, as witnessed in 2018, when he walked across Lok Sabha in parliament and hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stumping not just the BJP but also his own party.