The Vice President of Indian Congress, Rahul Gandhi was at the centre of a raging controversy on Wednesday after his name was spotted in a register for “non-Hindus” during a visit to Somnath temple, Times of India reports.
Rahul’s visit to seek Lord Shiva’s blessing at the famous temple flared into a major row as he was put down as a “non-Hindu” along with Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel.
Non-Hindus are allowed into the Somnath temple, but have to sign a register before doing so. The BJP demanded Rahul specify his religious identity while the Congress claimed it was a forgery.
Temple authorities distanced themselves from the controversy, insisting that there was no wrongdoing. Somnath temple trustee PK Laheri told TOI, “The Congress media coordinator made the entry for Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi as ‘non-Hindus’. How can we explain it? Congress leaders are best placed to tell why such an entry was made in the register.”
The Times of India writes that the row broke out on a day when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mocked Rahul’s temple trips as hypocrisy, saying his great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru had opposed the reconstruction of the Somnath temple, which is believed to have been destroyed several times, including by Mahmud Ghazni. “If there was no Sardar Patel, the temple in Somnath would never have been possible,” Modi said, arguing that Rahul’s visit was at odds with his family grandee’s views.
Rahul’s campaign has included visits to temples seen as intended to counter BJP attacks that Congress is deliberately insensitive to Hindu sentiments, preferring to cater to minority vote banks. Sensing the damaging potential of the Somnath controversy, Congress stressed on Rahul’s Hindu affiliation as well as his Brahmin roots as ascion of the Nehru-Gandhi family.