Battling allegations of playing the soft Hindutva card by visiting temples during his election campaign in Gujarat, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi today said he is a devotee of Lord Shiva.
Gandhi, who has visited a number of temples since he kicked off his campaign by offering prayer at Dwarkadhish temple Dwarka in September, today had darshan of Veer Meghmaya in Patan, Khodiyar Maa in Varana and Maa Bahuchar at Becharaji in Mehsana district.
“I am a devotee of Lord Shiva. Let them say whatever they want to say. My truth is with me,” Gandhi told reporters here when asked about the BJP’s criticism of his visits to various temples. The BJP, which has often accused the Congress of Muslim appeasement, termed Gandhi’s frequent temple visits an attempt to attract Hindu voters. However, the Congress countered the charge, saying the saffron party does not have the “patent on devotion”.
Gandhi started his campaign today with a visit to the Veer Meghmaya temple, sacred to the members of the Dalit vankar community. Later, he visited Khodiyar Maa temple and Maa Bahuchar temple. Gandhi had kicked off his tour of north Gujarat last Saturday after offering prayers at the Akshardham temple. He also offered prayer at the famous Ambaji temple. He visited two temples yesterday as well.
The Congress leader had climbed around 1,000 steps to seeks the blessings of Maa Chamunda in Chotila a few weeks ago. “We are not against his temple visits. We wish that everybody goes to temples and follows our tradition. But I want to ask….he (Gandhi) lives in Delhi and there are many temples there. Has he ever gone to any temple in Delhi? Has he visited Delhi Akshardham (Delhi) temple?” state BJP in-charge Bhupender Yadav said.
Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Nitin Patel had earlier said people can see through Gandhi’s visits to temples, which he termed a “gimmick” for votes. Patel had also asked the Congress to shed its “pseudo secularism” and respect mainstream Hindutva.
The Congress had countered the charge, saying the BJP does not have the sole patent on devotion and visiting temples. “Rahul Gandhiji visited Jain temple and Gurudwaras apart from Hindu temples. We believe in secularism,” Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said. The Congress is trying to form a bloc comprising Patidars, Dalits and OBCs to thwart the BJP’s attempts to retain power in the state which it has ruled for close to two decades without a break.