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After opposing the Jallikattu tooth and nail, Rahul Gandhi looks to salvage image by attending the festival

Congress leaders from PM Manmohan Singh to Shashi Tharoor and others have been very vocal against Jallikattu. Jairam Ramesh had even criticised the BJP's efforts to let the festivities continue. He had called it a 'barbaric practice' and had said the BJP was supporting some local leaders to appease them ahead of the elections.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has again made an appearance after vanishing to some undisclosed location for New Year. Gandhi is going to Madurai and will mark his presence at the famous Jallikattu festival On January 14. Jallikattu bull race is a part of traditional Pongal celebrations in Tamil Nadu.

Gandhi shared a tweet in which he said, “Coming to celebrate Pongal with you in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. I am participating in the Jallikattu festival in Madurai.” Interestingly, Congress has been vehemently opposed to the festival just a few years back.

A brief history of Jallikattu ban and Congress’ opposition of the tradition

In 2011, the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the Congress-led UPA government had banned the use of bulls in the festivities. However, under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act No 27 of 2009 the festival continued. In 2014, the Supreme Court of India then struck down the state’s law and banned Jallikattu. Since then, the people of Tamil Nadu have been fighting for their traditional event. Between 2014 and 2017, Jallikattu was held but it was deemed against the orders of the apex court.

Notably, in 2017, the Tamil Nadu government passed a bill with the support of the Prime Minister of India that exempted Jallikattu from Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960). First legal Jallikattu celebration was held on February 1, 2017, in Madurai district.

‘Jallikattu is a cruel form of entertainment’: Former PM Dr Manmohan Singh

From former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to several Congress leaders, the party has always opposed Jallikattu. In a letter addressed to NG Jayasimha of Humane Society International, Dr Singh called the festival a cruel form of entertainment. He said, “We have to discourage bullfights that provide a cruel form of entertainment.”

Source: Twitter user @/smkamatchi

In 2014, Jairam Ramesh, then-Environment minister, had welcomed the ban on Jallikattu and said, “I welcome the Supreme Court judgement. It will put an end to a barbaric practice.” Speaking to media, Ramesh had later even criticised the BJP’s efforts to let the festivities continue. He had called it a ‘barbaric practice’ and had said the BJP was supporting some local leaders to appease them ahead of the elections.

In 2016, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor claimed Jallikattu results in the torture of bulls. He said, “Disgraceful BJP political pandering to retrograde elements inTN&Maharashtra results in the torture of bulls. Urge Animal Welfare Board to appeal.”

Source: Official Twitter handle of Congress leader Shashi Tharoor

In 2016, Congress party released its manifesto for Tamil Nadu’s Assembly elections in which it promised ban on Jallikattu.

Screenshot of 2016 news report of Zee News in which it stated that Congress party had promised ban on the festival

In 2017, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented PETA against Jallikattu in the Supreme Court said, “Jallikattu is not a sport, it is a brutal and wanton torture of an animal.” Though he said that he was speaking as the counsel of PETA and not as Congress leader, his views were in sync with several other Congress leaders.

Congress’ U-turn

Congress and its supportive media ecosystem are highlighting Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Madurai to enjoy the Jallikattu celebrations. However, the social media is awash with old tweets, screenshots and videos of the Congress’ relentless battle to get the Hindu traditional event banned.

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