Rahul shows up as ‘non-Hindu’ in Somnath visitors’ list; BJP rakes up issue

The BJP tried to make an issue of this faux pas, pouncing on this opportunity to corner the Gandhi scion

Rahul Gandhi Somnath visit

In a major goof-up, the media coordinator of Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday wrote “non-Hindu” against the name of the Congress Vice President in the register of the famed Somnath temple, leading the BJP to pounce on it as evidence that Gandhi is “not a Hindu”.

Rahul Gandhi’s media coordinator Manoj Tyagi later clarified that he had entered the Congress leader’s name in the register as a means to take along his entire delegation inside that included security personnel and media persons.

The Congress Vice President, who arrived on Wednesday on a two-day visit to the poll-bound state of Gujarat, was to pay a visit to the temple for prayers before beginning his election campaign in Saurashtra region. | Today’s Paper

Ahead of the visit, Manoj Tyagi made an entry in the register for Ahmed Patel, a non-Hindu, who was to accompany the Congress Vice President inside the temple and also wrote the name of Rahul Gandhi in the register.

The BJP tried to make an issue of this faux pas, pouncing on this opportunity to corner the Gandhi scion.

The saffron party is worried about the soft Hindutva line that Rahul Gandhi has been following in his several visits to the state, which are being seen as a successful tactic in the election-bound state.

The BJP stated that, “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 an Hindu,” said Raju Dhruv, BJP spokesperson in Saurashtra region.

Manoj Tyagi on his part later issued a statement that he had just entered Gandhi’s name in the register in order to take media personnel inside the temple and not of Rahul Gandhi or Ahmed Patel. “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 and enshrines the first of 12 ‘jyotirlings’ of Lord Shiva. Through a notice in June 2015 the Shree Somnath Trust (SST) – the institution managing the temple — had made it mandatory for non-Hindus to seek permission of the Trust before entering the main temple.

Former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel is incumbent chairman of the Trust, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP National president Amit Shah and retired Chief Secretary of Gujarat, P.K. Laheri, are its trustees.

Rahul signed only visitors’ book: Somnath temple trust official

Seeking to clear the controversy, the Somnath temple authorities on Wednesday said that Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi did not sign the register maintained for non-Hindus during his visit to the temple.

Hours after the controversy erupted over the visit, the temple trust’s Secretary PK Laheri said that Gandhi only put his signature in the visitors’ book and nowhere else.

“‘This is an inspiring place’ – is what Rahul Gandhi wrote and he did so in the presence of our general manager Vijaysinh Chawda,” Laheri told the media.

“This is the only place where he signed,” he added.

On reports about entry as a non-Hindu, Laheri said: “Such a separate register is being maintained for the last three years for security purposes.

“But Rahulji did not sign it, maybe his media coordinator did. I am not sure. There was nobody there. This non-Hindu register generally remains with the security guard,” he added.