Suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar Monday said party president Rahul Gandhi’s visits to temples and assertion that he and his family members were “Shiv Bhakts” were not acts of communalism which, he alleged, was being propagated by the BJP. “If Rahul Gandhi regards himself and his family members as ‘Shiv Bhakts’ (devotees of Lord Shiva), what is wrong in that?” he asked.
“Can this be held as communalism? And the party which is propagating communalism is the saffron party (BJP),” Aiyar told PTI on the sidelines of a function here. Aiyar was asked about his opinion on Gandhi’s temple visits during the Gujarat assembly polls and reported plans to meet religious heads in poll-bound Karnataka this month.
The BJP had termed Gandhi’s frequent temple visits during the Gujarat election campaign as an attempt to attract Hindu votes. “My grandmother (late Indira Gandhi) and my family are Shiv Bhakts. But we keep such things private, because we think it is a very personal matter and we don’t need anyone else’s certificate about it,” Rahul Gandhi reportedly told traders in Gujarat ahead of the assembly polls.
Recalling that he had visited a number of temples along with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Aiyar said, “I used to go myself along with my friend Rajiv Gandhi because I am a believer. I did not impose this on any other human being.” Aiyar said if Rahul Gandhi wanted to visit a temple, he was entitled to do so. “If he wants to wear a sacred thread, he is entitled to do so,” he said.
“If I don’t worship cows, why should I stop others from worshipping? There is nothing wrong in personal religious belief, unless part of their belief is to put down somebody,” Aiyar said. Asked how soon the Congress could revoke his suspension from the party, Aiyar, a former Union minister, said, “It could be any time. It could be revoked in six hours. It could be revoked in six years, but someday I will be back in the Congress.”
He was suspended from the primary membership of the Congress on December 7 for his “neech” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Gujarat poll campaign.