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By any means, including faith

Ahmedabad: A BJP leader has sought to inject a virulent sectarian element into the Gujarat elections by asking if Rahul Gandhi is not a Hindu, "why has he been fooling people with these temple visits?"

Rahul's faith, a personal choice that should have no relevance in public life, became a matter of breathless debate after he visited the Somnath temple in Gujarat and it was reported that his name was written in a register meant for non-Hindus.

BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted: "Finally Rahul Gandhi comes clean on his religion, signs visitor register in Somnath (as per rule) meant for non-Hindus. If he isn't a Hindu by faith, let alone a practicing (sic) one, then why has he been fooling people with these temple visits?"

The Congress said "there is only one visitors' book at Somnath Temple that was signed by Congress VP Rahul Gandhi. Any other image being circulated is fabricated. Desperate times call for desperate measures?"

If BJP sympathisers dug out archival records to suggest Rahul is not a Hindu, the Congress betrayed its nerves and compulsions by listing minute details on his faith that are bound to raise some eyebrows. 

A television journalist narrated his version. "During Rahul's visit to the temple, his media coordinator Manoj Tyagi mentioned Rahul Gandhi's name along with Ahmed Patel in a special register maintained for non-Hindus who visit the temple," said Brajesh Kumar Singh, the journalist.

Tyagi then issued a statement: "I entered just my name in the register to take media personnel inside the Somnath temple. Neither Rahul Gandhi's nor Ahmed Patel's names were there in the register then. These would have been added later."

Somnath temple public relations officer Dhruv Joshi insisted: "The names of Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi were entered in the non-Hindu register by Tyagi. As per rule, it's compulsory to make such an entry at the security point close to the entry gate for all non-Hindu entrants."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened another flank. "Some people are remembering Somnath today and I have to ask them - have you forgotten history? Your parnana (great-grandfather), our first Prime Minister, was not happy with the idea of a temple being built there," Modi said, referring to Jawaharlal Nehru.

But filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt told The Telegraph: "Why must we always look at our leaders through the prism of religion? The question of personal faith is a curious one to ask, especially in a diverse and secular country like ours. Normally, it should be of little consequence or an intrusion into the private life."

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