'This is fake. Tyagi was made to sign on a blank paper of the register for media entry and later the names of Rahul Gandhi and others were added in the register,' Congress said.
Rahul Gandhi's visit to the Somnath temple on Wednesday got mired in a controversy after his name was found written on the entry register meant for non-Hindus, with the Congress calling it 'fake' and the Bharatiya Janata Party insisting that the leader declare his religious faith before people.
Gandhi, on campaign trail in Gujarat for the assembly polls, began his two-day visit to the state after offering prayers at the famous temple.
Non-Hindus are allowed to visit the temple but have to first get themselves registered at the shrine's office.
A purported photocopy of the page of the register for non-Hindus with names of Gandhi and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel written on it went viral on social media soon after their visit.
The temple administration said Gandhi's name was written in the shrine's register for non-Hindus by his media coordinator and maintained none of its staff was involved in the entire episode.
The signature against their names was that of the Congress party's media coordinator Manoj Tyagi.
"This is fake. Tyagi was made to sign on a blank paper of the register for media entry and later the names of Rahul Gandhi and others were added in the register," said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
Accusing the BJP of hatching a conspiracy against Gandhi, Surjewala insisted that the party vice president has declared himself as a 'Shiv Bhakt' (Lord Shiva devotee) and is a 'janeu dhari' (sacred thread-wearing) Hindu.
"This is a conspiracy of the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a trustee of the temple trust," he said.
Surjewala said Gandhi signed the visitors' register where he wrote that the place was 'inspiring'.
“You may want to know which religion Rahul Gandhi follows? I would like to tell you that he is a janeu dhari Hindu," said Surjewala.
The Congress also issued clarification on Twitter.
'Clarification: 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. Desperate times call for desperate measures?' tweeted the Congress, with a picture showing name, address and signature of Gandhi on a 'visitor's book', which the party claimed to be the only one given to the leader on his visit.
The Congress spokesperson said Gandhi, during his recent trips to Gujarat, had said he was a devotee of Lord Shiva.
The BJP, however, demanded that Gandhi declare his religious faith before people.
It also dismissed the conspiracy charge as baseless, saying Gandhi's aide who signed the register belongs to the Congress.
"He should make his faith clear to the people of this country after the controversy?" BJP spokesperson Raju Dhruv said.
BJP national spokesman Sambit Patra rejected as ‘baseless’ the Congress' conspiracy charge, saying Tyagi was a Congressman.
“Rahul, in his affidavit to the Election Commission, has shown different things and in the Somnath temple he is showing different things. He should come clean,” Patra said.
"Rahul may belong to any religion, we do not have any problem. We respect him. But the people of the country will get confused with this controversy," Patra said.
As the controversy raged, the temple management came out with a clarification.
"As per our rules, names of non-Hindus have to be registered. His (Gandhi's) name was registered by his media coordinator in our non-Hindu register.
"I would like to say that no staff member of our trust was involved in what the media coordinator did," managing trustee of Somnath Temple Trust P K Lehri said.
Lehri also said in the visitor's book, Gandhi wrote that the Somnath temple is an ‘inspiring’ place.
The temple, devoted to Lord Shiva, is located around 400 km from Ahmedabad.
The Congress leader has visited more than 15 temples during his multiple visits to poll-bound Gujarat in the last two months.
On Wednesday, Gandhi began his two-day visit of poll-bound Gujarat with a visit to Somnath temple, as he reached out to the Patidar community and attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his silence on the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Gandhi addressed an election rally at Visavadar in Junagadh district after offering prayers at the shrine of Lord Shiva in the afternoon in Gir Somnath district.
Referring to the 2015 quota stir in which 14 members of the Patidar community were killed in police firing, Gandhi said if anyone raises his voice he either gets beaten up or has to face bullets in Gujarat.
"All the communities are raising their voice here against the government. But what do you get if you raise your voice in Gujarat? You are beaten up, you have to face bullets," Gandhi said.
Visavdar is a Patidar-dominated constituency in politically crucial Saurashtra region.
"I asked Modiji three questions (on the Rafale deal). First, is there a difference in the cost of the planes in the first and the second contract (signed with a French firm), please give the reply in yes or no.
"Why was the contract given to a private industrialist friend instead of Hindustan Aeronautics limited (HAL)? And did you seek the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security for the deal?" Gandhi asked.
The Congress vice president also sought to know if due procedure was followed before formalising the deal with France last year for procuring the fighter jets.
Gandhi alleged that the prime minister was 'avoiding' answering his questions 'out to fear' that the 'truth' would come out before the crucial polls in his home state.
"Narendra Modiji is not replying to these questions because he wants that the truth of Rafale and Jay Shah (son of BJP chief Amit Shah) should not come out before the people ahead of the Gujarat elections," he said.
A web portal had claimed that the turnover of Jay Shah's firm had seen exponential growth after the BJP came to power at Centre in 2014.
Describing Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani as the 'rubber stamp', he said the government is run by Amit Shah.
He claimed the National Democratic Alliance government delayed the winter session of Parliament as Modi was not ready to discuss the Rafale deal and Jay Shah issue before the Gujarat polls.
"Generally, Parliament's (winter) session is held every year in November and discussions take place in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. But, due to two reasons, Parliament is opening after the Gujarat polls this time," Gandhi said.
He also criticised the Modi government on the issues of farmers and unemployment in the BJP-ruled Gujarat.
Nehru was against Somnath temple renovation: BJP on Rahul's visit
The BJP, meanwhile, claimed that his great grandfather and the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had 'opposed' renovation of the famous Somnath shrine.
"Rahul's (great) grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru had opposed renovation of the Somnath temple which had been plundered by Mahmud Ghazni. What is the motive behind Rahul's visit to the temple?" BJP Kisan Morcha president Virendra Singh asked while talking to reporters in Vadodara.
He also accused the Congress vice president of 'misleading' farmers of Gujarat as he 'lacks basic understanding' of agriculture.
"Rahul Gandhi is misleading farmers as well as the common people of Gujarat as he doesn't have the basic knowledge of agriculture," Singh said.
In a first, the Modi government has allocated for the agriculture sector 42 per cent of the total budget contrary to 10 to 12 per cent allocation which used to be the norm in the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance rule, he claimed.
"Rahul is politically naive and is an inexperienced leader. In fact, the entire Nehru-Gandhi family is ignorant about the basics of agriculture," Singh alleged.
He said the Congress cannot run Gujarat where 60 per cent of the total population lives in villages as the party will not be able to understand the problems of farmers and the common people.