The harvest festival Pongal is the most revered festival in Tamil Nadu, an agrarian state. Even though the pandemic situation curtailed the festivities a little bit, people celebrated it with gaiety and of course with Jallikkattu, the bull-taming sport.

But the upcoming Assembly elections gave a political twist to the festivities this time with national political leaders making a beeline to the state. Rahul Gandhi, J P Nadda and Mohan Bhagwat are either currently visiting Tamil Nadu or doing so shortly.

Former Congress president Gandhi made a day-long visit to Madurai (photo) to witness the bull taming sport and celebrate Pongal along with people. Though he is not taking part in any political functions in the city, he said he came here to express his solidarity with the farmers of the country.

Gandhi and DMK youth wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin attended the jallikattu event at Avaniyapuram in Madurai, the first day of the Pongal celebrations in the state.

During the function, Rahul said, “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.” He later joined a Pongal feast with local people.

Interacting with media persons at Madurai airport, Gandhi said the Modi government will be forced to take back the farm laws in the coming days. “If anybody thinks that they can suppress farmers agitation and this country will continue to prosper, they just have to look at our history. Whenever Indian farmers are weak, India is weak,” he added.

Lashing out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi said, “You are suppressing the farmers and helping a handful of crony businessmen. When Covid lashed the country, you did not support the common man. Whose Prime Minister are you? Are you the Prime Minister of people or of two-three selected businessmen?”

Gandhi’s visit, however, saw #Goback_Rahul trend on Twitter. A number of BJP functionaries and right-wing groups accused the Congress leader of opportunistic politics.

BJP national president JP Nadda is also expected to visit Tamil Nadu during Pongal celebrations.

Earlier Union home affairs minister Amit Shah was scheduled to visit Chennai, especially to have talks regarding the state Assembly polls and to attend the annual day celebrations of Thuglak magazine.

However, Amit Shah cancelled the trip and asked Nadda to handle these tasks.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat participated in Pongal celebrations on Thursday and visited the house of a functionary of the organisation where he recited a couplet from the Tamil classic Tirukkural, authored by Tamil savant Tiruvalluvar.

Bhagwat also performed a ‘gau puja’ (cow worship). He is on a two day visit to the city. Bhagwat, it is said, will take part in Pongal celebrations in Chennai.