News that Rahul Gandhi registered as a "non-Hindu" visitor at the famous Somnath temple in Gujarat on Wednesday was chalked up by the Congress to a BJP conspiracy ahead of polls in the state. The apparent "slip" ignited a storm on Twitter with 'Somnath Temple' emerging as one of the top trends of the day. An array of Congress leaders put out emphatic denials and accused the ruling BJP of circulating a "fake entry" to discredit their boss-designate.
- Congress accused BJP of circulating a "fake entry" to discredit Mr Gandhi
- They showed screenshot of Mr Gandhi's handwritten note in visitors' book
- Rahul Gandhi visited Somnath at start of 2-day campaign in Saurashtra
"We have no qualms in saying that Rahul Gandhi is a Hindu. Not only is Rahul Gandhiji a Hindu, he is a 'janeu dhari' (Brahmin) Hindu. BJP should not bring down the political discourse to this level," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala lashed out.
At the start of a two-day campaign in the crucial Saurashtra region, the Congress vice president visited the renowned temple along with Ahmed Patel and others. A media coordinator, Manoj Tyagi, apparently signed in for the whole group in a register meant for non-Hindus, who need special permission to visit the temple. The Congress alleges that the name "Rahul Gandhiji" was added by the BJP.
As the BJP seized on the row, one of its Gujarat leaders, Raju Dhruv, said: "Rahul Gandhi has been visiting temples. The Congress has been lying. The entry shows that he is not an Hindu."
Skewered on social media, the Congress produced a screenshot of Rahul Gandhi's handwritten note in the visitors' book as proof that he had nothing to do with the register entry.
"Everyone knows Rahul Gandhi is a shiv bhakt (devotee). The BJP is doing what it does best, diverting from real issues," said Congress leader Deependra Hooda, pointing out that the temple's trust includes BJP leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah and former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.
Amping up their campaign in Gujarat, both PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi crisscrossed the western part of the state, which accounts for over 50 seats in the 182-member assembly.
As Rahul Gandhi was offering prayers at the Somnath temple on Wednesday, PM Modi, addressing an election rally around 25 km away, sought to remind him that Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister and his great-grandfather, had opposed the renovation of Somnath.
"If there was no Sardar Patel, the temple in Somnath would never have been possible. Today some people are remembering Somanth, I have to ask them - Have you forgotten your history? Your family members, our first Prime Minister, was not happy with the idea of a temple being built there," said the Prime Minister.
Rahul Gandhi has visited several temples over the last few weeks as part of his "Gujarat Navsarjan Yatra". The ruling BJP has ripped into his "temple run" as a sign of desperation in a state where the Congress has been out of power for over two decades. Responding to criticism, the Congress leader said: "I am a devotee of Lord Shiva. Let them say whatever they want to say. My truth is with me".