A day after a controversy broke out over his religion, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today said he and his family members were 'Shiv Bhakts' (devotees of Lord Shiva) but asserted that he did not want to use his religion for political gains.
Addressing traders in a closed-door meeting here, Gandhi said he did not need anybody's certificate about his religion, nor would he do 'dalali' (deal) over religion.
Some BJP workers entered his name in the register meant for non-Hindus at the Somnath temple, leading to the controversy, the Congress leader alleged.
"My grandmother (late Indira Gandhi) and my family are Shiv Bhakts. But we keep such things private. We generally do not speak about them. Because, we think it is a very personal matter and we don't need anyone else's certificate about it," he said.
"We do not want to commercialise this thing. We don't want to do 'dalali' over it. We do not want to use it for political purposes too," he said.
A video of his interaction was shared with the media by local Congress leaders.
"I will tell you what had happened (yesterday). I went inside the temple. Then I signed the visitors' book. After that, BJP people wrote my name in the second book," Gandhi alleged.
On the relationship between Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi said they were friends despite some political and ideological differences.
"Though they were friends and even went to jail together, some people here are spreading lies that they were enemies. Further, there is evidence that Sardar Patel was against the RSS. But some people here are spreading a lie that he was RSS sympathiser, which is not true," he said.
Gandhi's visit to the Somnath temple yesterday got mired in a controversy after his name, along with that of Ahmed Patel, was found written on the entry register meant for non-Hindus, with the Congress calling it "fake" and the BJP insisting the leader declare his religious faith before people.
Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki hinted that BJP president Amit Shah, who is a trustee of the temple, could be behind it.
"Amit Shah is a trustee of Somnath temple. You know what he is capable of. They have stooped to such a low level that now they want to term us non-Hindus," Solanki said today.
"Rahul Gandhi had just written in the visitors' book that it is an 'inspiring place'. Ahmed Patel had also not made any entry in the register for non-Hindus. That was a clear conspiracy," Solanki said.
The BJP, however, dismissed the conspiracy charge, saying Gandhi's aide, who signed the register, is from the Congress itself.
The temple administration said Gandhi's name was written in the shrine's register for non-Hindus by his media coordinator, and its staff was not involved in the episode.
Non-Hindus are allowed to visit the temple but have to first get themselves registered at the shrine's office.
A purported photocopy of a page of the register for non-Hindus with the names of Gandhi and Ahmed Patel went viral on social media soon after their visit to the shrine. The signatures against their names were that of the Congress party's media coordinator, Manoj Tyagi.