According to reports, the Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad in Kerala would visit Tamil Nadu on a day when the state would celebrate Pongal, the harvest festival. He would be a witness to jallikattu at Avaniyapuram near Madurai as a symbolic gesture to support the farmers protesting against the three farm laws.
Tamil Nadu Congress president KS Alagiri said in Chennai on Tuesday that Rahul would lend his moral support to the farmers protesting against the new farm laws across the country by witnessing jallikattu. Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Tamil Nadu comes a few months before the state faces assembly elections.
However, the Congress’s history as far as supporting jallikattu is concerned has not been consistent. In fact, the party has generally been seen opposing jallikattu whenever it has been in power and vice versa.
The Congress had promised to ban jallikattu in its manifesto for 2016 Tamil Nadu assembly elections. The manifesto, released in the presence of then party state president EVKS Elangovan and other senior leaders, stated that its government would completely ban the bull sport if it came to power in the state.
The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee had prepared the document and released it only after getting approval from AICC. The Congress had forged an alliance with DMK. However, the AIADMK, then led by chief minister late J Jayalalithaa, retained power after the elections.
In fact even before that, the Union environment and forests ministry under Jairam Ramesh on July 11, 2011, had banned the use of bulls as performing animals. As a result of this, the ban extended to effectively putting a ban on jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court, on May 7, 2014 (when UPA II was in power), completely banned jallikattu. It justified the Union environment and forests ministry’s ruling.
After the Narendra Modi government came to power in May 2014, the environment, forests and climate change ministry, in January 2016, amended its 2011 notification, allowing jallikattu and bullock cart races with specific conditions.
On the other side, the Congress came out openly in support of jallikattu only January 2017. Its chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the party respected the rights of the people of Tamil Nadu to preserve the culture and protect the rich tradition of jallikattu.
He sought to put the onus on the Natendra Modi government and the AIADMK dispensation in Tamil Nadu by stating that it was the responsibility of centre and state to respect sentiments and strike a balance on safety and safeguard.
Congress respects rights of ppl of Tamil Nadu to preserve the culture and protect rich tradition of #jallikattu :RS… https://t.co/TxhyjfOCUd
— ANI (@ANI) 1484815313000
Surjewala may have supported jallikattu, but another Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi was one of the counsels of a petition filed by Animal Welfare Board and PETA against jallikattu in the Supreme Court.
In July 2016, the Supreme Court overturned the Modi government’s decision.