New Delhi: The politics over ‘Shiv Bhakt’ Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits in Madhya Pradesh – his latest one being a trip a trip to Ujjain’s Mahakaleshwar temple – has started heating up as the state goes to polls next months. In Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi’s frequent temple visits – something the BJP has termed soft-Hindutva for votes – is seen as Congress’ keen attempts to end the BJP’s uninterrupted 15-year rule.
The BJP has been critical of his temple run terming it an attempt to draw Hindu voters while the Congress has rejected the charge saying that the saffron party does not have the patent on devotion.
On Monday, the Gandhi scion, clad in a ‘dhoti’ performed ‘puja’ at the Mahakaleshwar temple, which is one of the 12 ‘Jyotirlingas’ (special shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva) in the country.
The Congress, had last year, said Gandhi was an ardent “Shiv bhakt”. In August this year, he had undertaken Kailash Mansarovar Yatra to seek blessings of Lord Shiva.
Last year, facing BJP’s ire over his visit to the Somnath temple ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections, Gandhi had said, “Main Shiv ka bhakt hoon, sachaai mein believe karta hoon. BJP jo bhi bole main apni sachaai mein believe karta hu (I am a devotee of Shiv. The BJP may say anything, but I will remain honest.)”
Taking a dig at the Congress president on Monday, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra asked him what was his “gotra”. “After the Antony committee’s report, Rahul Gandhi is exhibiting fancy dress Hinduism continuously. To mislead the Hindus, he is sporting a “janeu” (scared thread) over the shirt. We demand that ‘janeudhari’ Rahul Gandhi clarify to which ‘gotra’ (clan) does he belong to,” Patra said.
He claimed that after the humiliating defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, a committee headed by former Union minister A K Antony had said the Congress should take care of the Hindus for its political revival as it was losing ground because of its projected image of a “party of Muslims”.
The BJP also said that the Gandhi scion is exhibiting “fancy dress Hinduism” to fool people.
The ruling party also demanded action against his party colleague Shashi Tharoor for his “scorpion” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress MP from Kerala stoked a fresh controversy Sunday, claiming that an unnamed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader had compared the prime minister to “a scorpion sitting on a Shivling” and termed it as an extraordinarily striking metaphor.
“The objectionable statement of Tharoor, who is very close to Rahul Gandhi, has disrespected not only the holy deity of Lord Mahadev, worshipped by crores of Hindus, but also Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“In such a situation, how will he (Gandhi) offer prayers at the Mahakal temple,” Patra said.
Rahul’s temple run began during the Gujarat elections last year with a visit to the famous Dwarkadheesh Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. He visited at least 25 more temples, including a visit to Somnath that triggered a controversy over his religion.
In the subsequent Karnataka elections, the Congress assured that Rahul’s itinerary includes visits to all prominent temples and local mutts.