The Congress on Wednesday accused the BJP of playing dirty politics and hatching a cheap conspiracy by fabricating entries in the register kept at the Somnath temple, that was visited by Rahul Gandhi who the party called a "devout Hindu" and a strong "Shiv bhakt".
Addressing a hurriedly-called press conference hours after the BJP sought to rake up a controversy over Rahul Gandhi's name figuring in the register for non-Hindus, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the BJP was scared of the outcome of the Gujarat Assembly elections and was thus resorting to cheap politics.
"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," said Surjewala, adding "Desperate times call for desperate measures" - referring to the BJP.
"When the visitor's book was given to him by the temple committee, Rahul Gandhi wrote a message on it with his name (Rahul Gandhi) and address (12, Tughlak Lane, New Delhi). "A very inspiring place" was the message he wrote in the book," he added.
"The other register was tweeted by mediapersons. Rahul Gandhi has neither written (in the other register) nor was the register given to him."
The other register contained a signature by AICC media coordinator Manoj Tyagi, who was asked by some temple officials to sign so that the mediapersons accompanying Rahul Gandhi could enter the temple.
Surjewala said: "After Rahul left the temple, by misusing some of our media friends, another fabricated entry was made public. Has the BJP become so cowardly that they are scared of coming out and speaking up."
He alleged that the names of Rahul Gandhi and Ahmed Patel were entered surreptitiously on the left side of the register meant for non-Hindus by someone - suggesting manipulation. "This was a fabricated register. Those names were added later," he said.
Showing the pictures of Gandhi wearing sacred thread, Surjewala said that Rahul is a "Janayudhari" (devout) Hindu. "Whether it was during the time of his naming or at the time of his sister's wedding..or at the time of his father's cremation, he was seen with the sacred thread."
He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah not to stoop so low for political gains that "130 crore Indians start hating you".
"Truth will not change because of your conspiratorial tactics," he added.
Another Congress spokesperson Deepender Hooda said: "BJP's intentions stand exposed today...Even Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has conceded that their party is in bad shape (for elections). Whenever they are in such a state, they lose their rudder."
The episode, Hooda said, "is a sign of intellectual bankruptcy of the BJP".
The Congress reaction came after BJP raked up the issue and questioned Rahul Gandhi's religion.
BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narsimha Rao said in a tweet: "Rahul Gandhi is a non-Hindu and a 'Shiv Bhakht'? Very impressive. No wonder he said earlier people go to temples and tease women."
Quoting an article written in 1998 in New York Times, which said by certainty that Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka were raised as Roman Catholics, Rao said: "This was never denied. Did Rahul Gandhi convert to Hinduism thereafter? @OfficeOfRG please clarify. It's not a personal issue any longer."
"Rahulji, 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," he said in another tweet.