In a fine balancing act between soft ‘Hindutva’ and keeping minorities in good humour, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son new vice-president Rahul Gandhi will take a ritual dip in the river Ganga at Kumbh Mela in Allahabad , next week and then head for the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to address annual convocation.
The central security agencies coordinating with the Uttar Pradesh (UP) authorities have set February 8 and 9 as dates for Mrs. Gandhi and Rahul’s holy dip. On Monday party general secretary and its Brahman face Janardan Dwivedi visited Allahabad and met Shankaracharya of Dwarika Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati to finalise arrangements and discuss rituals.
Last time, Mrs Gandhi had visited the Kumbh Mela in 2001 amidst cacophony of her foreign origin. Now when she seems well entrenched in the political system, Congress sources here say, it was time for Rahul to display his respect for Hindu civilizational rituals and sentiments.
All eyes are on the visit of the mother-son duo to Allahabad. So is Muslim community also keenly awaiting Mrs. Gandhi’s address at the AMU, the world famous seat of Muslim intelligentsia. In Allahabad, she will be watched whether she will take a full bath, as her ‘semi-snan’, just sprinkling water at the sangam of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati on her head in 2001 had generated a controversy.
In Aligarh, Mrs Gandhi will create history by becoming the only second lady to deliver the convocation address on February 16. The first chancellor of the university, Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum of Bhopal was the first lady to deliver Convocation Address on January 26, 1925.
AMU Registrar, Group Captain (Retd.) Shahrukh Shamshad, announced forming of several committees to ensure a smooth convocation.
Since the AMU is the alma matter of Muslim elite and a political nerve centre, the community is expecting her to back minority status for the institution, as well as to announce some sops for the educated Muslims. “Mrs. Gandhi was invited in her capacity as the UPA chairperson, which she has accepted. She will be welcomed with traditional pomp and pageantry, with horse-mounted students as escorts,” says vice-chancellor Syed Zamirudin Shah.