New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has said BJP workers had deliberately entered his name on a register meant for non-Hindu visitors at Gujarat's Somnath temple and accused the ruling party of using religion for political gains. As snapshots of the register entry triggered a storm on Twitter on Wednesday, leaders of Gujarat BJP had jeered, saying it was proof that Mr Gandhi was not a Hindu.
"My grandmother (late Indira Gandhi) and my family are Shiv Bhakts (devotees of Lord Shiva). But we keep such things private, because, we think it is a very personal matter and we don't need anyone else's certificate about it," Mr Gandhi said during a closed-door session with traders at Amreli. "We do not want to commercialise this thing. We don't want to do 'dalali' (wheeling-dealing) over it. We do not want to use it for political purposes either," he is seen saying in a cellphone video shot during the interaction.
Mr Gandhi's party had been vocal about the issue. Congress leaders accused the ruling BJP of circulating a "fake entry" to discredit Mr Gandhi. The party also produced a screenshot of Mr Gandhi's handwritten note in the visitors' book of the temple, as proof that he had nothing to do with the register entry.
Mr Gandhi supported the allegation on Thursday, saying, "I will tell you what had happened (yesterday). I went inside the temple. Then I signed the visitors' book. After that, BJP people wrote my name in the second book."
Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki has hinted that BJP president Amit Shah, who is a trustee of the temple, could be behind what he called a "conspiracy". "They have stooped to such a low level that now they want to term us non-Hindus," he was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
The BJP has dismissed the allegation, saying Mr Gandhi's aide had signed the register - a claim that was seconded by the temple.
Mr Gandhi's repeated visits to temples during the election campaign in Gujarat has irked many BJP leaders, who have claimed that it is a sign of desperation of the Congress, which has been out of power in the state for more than two decades. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has derided his temple visits, saying at one of the temples, the Congress leader was told off for "sitting as if he's doing Namaaz".
Rahul Gandhi had then claimed that he was a devotee of Lord Shiva -- a comment that was greeted with jeers by some BJP leaders.