Rahul Gandhi's surprise 'Jallikattu' outreach in Madurai: Check how it got unfolded!

Tamil Nadu is fast-approaching the legislative elections, the first state elections since the demise of political giants Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa and to fill up the vacuum, all the decades-old and recently emerged parties are on the heated race to claim their legacy and to take over the reign. Along with the state parties, the national parties are also hoping to have a political breakthrough in the state and both the rival national parties of Congress and BJP have now stood in the same line of using the Pongal festival to give them a crucial push in the state. 

While Tamil Nadu has been celebrating the Pongal festival in traditional fashion, the national leaders are marching towards the state for their Pongal outreach of being with the people and tradition ahead of the elections. On Thursday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi arrived in Madurai to take a glimpse of what the Congress-led UPA government banned in 2011 - Jallikattu.  In what has become Rahul's Jallikattu outreach, the Congress leader had taken part in the Jallikattu event at Avaniyapuram, Madurai and it was his first live appearance for one of Tamil Nadu's traditional sports. 

Rahul Gandhi's surprise visit to Madurai has come when the state has celebrated the first day of the Pongal Celebrations and it also has come when the state is three months ahead of the assembly polls. Rahul Gandhi had shared the stage with DMK Youth Wing Secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin and they both caught the national attention for being on the battleground for the first time. However, it is still unclear whether the two leaders had discussed the elections during their meeting. 

Rahul Gandhi was joined on the stage by All India Congress Committee General Secretary KC Venugopal, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President KS Alagiri, and Puducherry Chief Minister Narayanasamy. Speaking about his participation, Rahul Gandhi said, "I would like to thank everybody for inviting me here today. It was a lovely experience to see Tamil culture and history in action. I'm happy to see that Jallikattu is conducted in an organized and safe way. It ensures that youngsters and everybody is safe". 

He stated "I have specially come here since Tamil Culture, language, and history is important for the future of India and it needs to be respected by everyone in India. I have come here to give a message to those people who think they can rupture Tamil people and push aside Tamil language and culture". "I have received tremendous love and affection of Tamil people. It is also my duty to stand with the people of Tamil Nadu to protect history and culture. I have also come here to learn the history, emotion, and culture of the people". he added. 

Rahul Gandhi has also conveyed his Pongal wishes and Udhayanidhi Stalin said that this is the first time that he has come to Avaniyapuram. The DMK leader said that Madurai is all about braveness and jallikattu is the best example and he asserted that he will come to Jallikattu every year from now. According to reports, Rahul Gandhi's visit would be a significant driver for the campaign of the Congress party and for his upcoming visits. As farmers' protests are beckoning the Central BJP government, the Congress mulls to display pro-farmers politics.

Earlier, speaking about Rahul Gandhi's visit to Madurai, Tamil Nadu Congress President KS Alagiri said that Rahul Gandhi will extend support to the protesting farmers by watching Jallikattu. Amid his visit, two people on the spot had raised slogans in support of the protesting farmers. However, BJP is not pleased by his visit to Madurai in his outreach, and several members of the BJP and right-wing parties have been trending the hashtag of '#Goback_Rahul on Twitter to voice against Rahul Gandhi's visit to Madurai. Several BJP members had accused Rahul Gandhi of playing opportunistic politics and a BJP leader said that Rahul Gandhi doesn't have the moral right to come to Avaniyapuram.

It must be noted that the UPA government had in 2011 banned the use of the bull as a performing animal. However, the sport continued in the state due to the state's legislation and in 2014, the Supreme Court had banned Jallikattu and it had repealed the state's legislation on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.  However, the ban had triggered massive protests as three years later in January 2017, thousands of people had gathered and protested in Marina Beach against the Supreme Court's decision of banning the sport, and following the large-scale protests, the ADMK government had passed an ordinance of allowing Jallikattu. 

After nine years of acting against Jallikattu, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has now visited Madurai and took part in the traditional sport in what has been seen as his outreach ahead of the assembly polls. According to reports, the members of the Congress party had gathered in Madurai airport earlier in the day and they had given a grandeur welcome to the Congress leader and the residents of Avaniyapuram had also given him a traditional welcome and he celebrated Pongal and had lunch with the residents in Madurai, as he unfolded what has become a well-played Jallikattu outreach.