A major controversy broke out yesterday over Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the Somnath temple with the Bharatiya Janata Party questioning his faith.
The opposition party hit back, accusing the BJP of playing dirty politics and said Gandhi was a “devout Hindu”.
The controversy arose over Gandhi’s media co-ordinator Manoj Tyagi signing the register meant for non-Hindus, which the Congress claimed was manipulated later by adding the names of Gandhi and party leader Ahmed Patel.
Moments after his visit, social media was abuzz with pictures of a register showing the signature of Manoj Tyagi, with the names of Gandhi and Patel on the left side.
The BJP went to town with the story that Gandhi has declared himself to be a non-Hindu.
“The Congress has always tried to project Rahul Gandhi as a Hindu. But the fact is that he is not. Rahul has visited over 20 temples of multiple Hindu deities since October. The Congress has been lying. The entry shows that he is not a Hindu,” Raju Dhruv, BJP spokesman in Saurashtra region, said.
Tyagi issued a statement that he had just signed the register in order to take media personnel inside the temple and not entered Gandhi or Patel’s names. “These would have been added later,” he said in the statement.
Somnath temple, located on the shores of the Arabian Sea on the southernmost part of Gujarat, is revered by Hindus. Through a notice in June 2015 the Shree Somnath Trust (SST) which manages the temple had made it mandatory for non-Hindus to seek permission before entering the shrine.
Former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel is the chairman of the trust, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and retired chief secretary of Gujarat, P K Laheri, are its trustees.
The Congress called a press conference at short notice. Party spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said the BJP was scared of the outcome of the Gujarat assembly elections and was thus resorting to cheap politics.
“There is only one visitor’s book at Somnath Temple that was signed by Congress VP Rahul Gandhi. Any other image being circulated is fabricated,” said Surjewala, adding “desperate times call for desperate measures” - referring to the BJP.