While GST, demonetisation, quota for the Patidar community, anti-Dalit incidents and similar issues have found prominence in the discourse around the 2017 Gujarat Assembly election, the latest issue to enter the fray is religion.
In what the Congress claimed a fabricated image, and the BJP alleged a conspiracy, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's visit to the Somnath temple snowballed into a controversy after several Gujarati news channels reported that Rahul's name appeared in the non-Hindu register of the temple. All non-hindus have to declare their identity at the temple.
The temple trust's secretary PK Laheri exclusively told Firstpost reporter Darshan Desai that Rahul only put his signature in the Visitor's Book of the temple and nowhere else. "Rahul only wrote: This is an inspiring place' and he did so in the presence of our general manager Vijaysinh Chawda. "This is the only place he signed after he entered the temple," he added. As for entry as a non-Hindu, Laheri clarified,"The separate register has been maintained for the last three years for security purposes."
Laheri told Firstpost that Rahul did not sign the "other register."
"...maybe his media coordinator did. But I am not sure. There was nobody there. This non-Hindu register generally remains with the security guard."
According to this report in India Today, an image of the register where both Rahul and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel signed as 'non-Hindus' went viral on social media. The image was shared on Twitter by one Vikas Pandey who goes by the handle @vikasspandey.
The image was deleted by the user when Firstpost tried to verify its veracity.
The Congress' issued a clarification soon after the news broke on social media and said that at the Somnath Temple there is only one visitor book and any other image that has been circulated is fake.
Clarification: 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.
Desperate times call for desperate measures? pic.twitter.com/KOokFOH83z
— Congress (@INCIndia) November 29, 2017
Here is the original signature of Rahul Gandhi at Somnath Temple.Very clearly. The other signature is written as 'Rahul Gandhi ji', why would he write ji? Don't know who wrote it. BJP doing what it does best, diverting from real issues: Deependra Hooda,Congress pic.twitter.com/CeRqJnlA6A — ANI (@ANI) November 29, 2017
This is the authentic entry of @OfficeOfRG with his signature in #SomnathTemple today. The one which is being circulated by #BJP is false.
मैंने कहा था ना,आज भाजपावालों को मिर्ची लगेगी।लग गई।#Congress_Aave_Che #Gujratelections2017 pic.twitter.com/piafcq5ObU
— Sanjay Nirupam (@sanjaynirupam) November 29, 2017
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also called for a media briefing and said, "Rahul ji made an entry into the visitor's book. The signature of which is being talked of is different, neither it is the signature of Rahul Gandhi nor was this register ever given to him."
Rahul ji made an entry into the visitor's book, The signature which is being talked of is different,neither it is the signature of Rahul Gandhi nor was this register ever given to him: RS Surjewala,Congress pic.twitter.com/8w6hkKxRHQ — ANI (@ANI) November 29, 2017
Not only is Rahul Gandhi ji a Hindu, he is a 'janeu dhari' Hindu. So BJP should not bring down the political discourse to this level: RS Surjewala,Congress pic.twitter.com/YY5MKQEKt5
— ANI (@ANI) November 29, 2017
Congress sources in Gujarat, however, have told Firstpost that the local media coordinator of the party, Manoj Tyagi, in Gujarat signed both Rahul and Patel's name in the non-Hindu register "by mistake". Sources said that the person who filled the register was not aware of the rules here hence wrote Rahul's name in that register. The BJP did not miss the opportunity to slam the party with two different versions of the incident coming from the Congress. Senior journalist Brajesh K Singh tweeted this at least three hours ago:
Jai Somnath! During @INCIndia Vice President @OfficeOfRG visit to Somnath Temple, his media coordinator Manoj Tyagi mentioned Rahul Gandhi name along with @ahmedpatel into the spl register maintained for Non-Hindus who are visiting the temple. Major goof up in the election season pic.twitter.com/yYvBmIm2s3 — Brajesh K Singh (@brajeshksingh) November 29, 2017
The Congress workers have called the incident a conspiracy by the BJP as one of the secretaries of the temple trust is BJP president Amit Shah. The BJP, meanwhile, launched a scathing attack on the Congress vice-president demanding to know which religion he followed.
BJP's IT cell chief Amit Malviya was quick to cash in on this as he tweeted:
Finally Rahul Gandhi comes clean on his religion, signs visitor register in Somnath (as per rule) meant for non-Hindus. If he isn’t a Hindu by faith, let alone a practicing one, then why has he been fooling people with these temple visits? pic.twitter.com/Igh5wxitkt
— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) November 29, 2017
This 1998 New York Times article said by certainty that Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka were raised as Roman Catholics. This was never denied. Did Rahul Gandhi convert to Hinduism there after? @OfficeOfRG please clarify. It's not a personal issue any longer.https://t.co/4oxjBxPqS1 — GVL Narasimha Rao (@GVLNRAO) November 29, 2017
RahulG, Why is there so much secrecy and deceit about your and family's religion, foreign travels, educational qualifications, passports/citizenship? Questions are never answered. Even British monarchy is more transparent. Is RTI only for govts & not for politicians? @OfficeOfRG
— GVL Narasimha Rao (@GVLNRAO) November 29, 2017
With inputs from Darshan Desai
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Updated Date: Nov 30, 2017 13:33 PM