Kochi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra which is currently passing through Kerala hit the wrong note on Wednesday as it reached Aluva in Ernakulam district as a portrait of right-wing ideologue Veer Savarkar was found adorning a banner among several other figures from India's Freedom Movement.
The banner at Aluva put up by Congress workers ahead of Rahul Gandhi's arrival here has an image of Savarkar between Govind Ballabh Pant and Chandra Shekhar Azad (mistakenly written in the banner as Chander).
The Savarkar photo quickly made rounds on social media much to the delight of BJP trolls. When notified of the goof-up, Congress workers rushed to the spot to pin Mahatma Gandhi's poster over Savarkar's portrait. However, the damage was already done.
Suresh, the Indian National Trade Union Congress's president of the Chengamanad constituency, was suspended from the party for the bungle.
The official explanation from the Congress is that the banner was put up by a local activist and that neither the party nor the Yatra team had anything to do with it.
Apparently, the activist had directed the local printer to adorn the banner with portraits of freedom fighters but failed to instruct to use only images of Congress leaders.
Savarkar is touted to be the pioneering proponent of Hindutva, i.e., the Hindu nationalist political ideology that fuels India's right-wing organisations that are hostile to the Congress.
It was also found that Savarkar's portrait also adorned a campaign board set up at Athani junction where Rahul Gandhi was slated to halt during the Yatra on Thursday.
Amid criticism from rivals, including Kerala's ruling party CPM, senior Congress leaders took to social media to offer a counterpunch.
Among them were All-India Congress Committee general secretary Jairam Ramesh who reminded the CPM that it was in fact the latter who joined ranks with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to prop up VP Singh's coalition government at the Centre in the late 1980s.
Ramesh further added that the banner row is unlikely to disrupt the Yatra or taint its agenda.
Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra is seen by many as an attempt to revitalise the party and unite it for a full-fledged attack against the BJP ahead of the 2024 polls.