Gandhinagar: Clutching at straws in the wind, the BJP on Wednesday tried to capitalize on a ‘faux pas’ by Congress vice-chief Rahul Gandhi’s media coordinator, who listed Gandhi as a non-Hindu at Somnath temple.
The ‘goof-up’ happened as Gandhi arrived to pray at the Somnath temple on the opening day of his 2-day election campaign of Saurashtra region. Media coordinator Manoj Tyagi had 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.
Caught momentarily on the back foot, an array of Congress leaders put out emphatic denials and accused the BJP of circulating a “fake entry” on the social media to discredit their vice-chief. “We have no qualms in saying that Rahul Gandhi is a Hindu. Not only is he 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.
However, the BJP was fast on the uptake seeking to make political capital out of it. ‘‘The Congress has always projected that Rahul is a Hindu while the fact is that he is not”, the party claimed. The party further demanded that Gandhi declare his religious faith before people. “He should make his faith clear after the controversy?” BJP spokesperson Raju Dhruv said.
Political observers said the BJP has been clearly unnerved by Gandhi’s temple run and recourse to ‘soft Hinduism.’ Nonetheless, hammered 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. The party pointed out that Gandhi’s handwriting is different in a note in the visitors’ book in which he wrote “a very inspiring place” after offering prayers to Lord Shiva.
“This is fake. Tyagi was made to sign on a blank paper of the register for media entry and later the names of Rahul Gandhi and others were added in the register,” said Surjewala. Interestingly it was only in June 2015, after the change of guard at the Centre that the Shree Somnath Trust (SST), which manages the temple, put up a notice making it mandatory for non-Hindus to seek permission of the Trust before entering the temple.
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 PK Laheri are its trustees. The first of the 12 ‘Jyotirlings’, the Somnath temple, located on the Saurashtra coast, is considered among the holiest of the holy shrines.