'I am not a Hinduwadi leader, but a nationalist leader. I am a leader of every religion, every caste, every language and every class'
Asserting that he does not need the Bharatiya Janata Party's "certificate" to visit temples, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday he understands the Hindu religion better than the saffron party does and he is a "nationalist leader" who respects every religion.
"I am not a 'Hinduwadi' leader, but a nationalist leader. I am a leader of every religion, every caste, every language and every class," he said.
A day after the BJP's barb that Gandhi was "exhibiting fancy dress Hinduism" with his temple visits in the poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and in other states earlier, the Congress leader retorted, "Are the country's temples the sole property of the BJP and the RSS? Have only Modi and Shah got the contract to visit temples?"
Interacting with select journalists in Indore, Gandhi said the BJP remains silent whenever Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the BJP president Amit Shah visit a temple wearing clothes as per that temple's tradition.
"But when Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and I wear clothes as per the temple's tradition, it is said that we are exhibiting fancy dress Hinduism," he said.
Gandhi had started his two-day tour of Madhya Pradesh on Monday after offering prayers at Ujjain's famous Mahakaleshwar temple.
Hours after Gandhi's temple visit, BJP spokesman Sambit Patra had alleged, "... Rahul Gandhi is exhibiting fancy dress Hinduism continuously. To mislead the Hindus, he is sporting a "janeu" (sacred thread) over the shirt. We demand that 'janeudhari' Rahul Gandhi clarify to which 'gotra' (clan) does he belong to."
Gandhi said, "If I feel like going to a temple and offering prayers to God then I will definitely visit it. I don't need a certificate from the BJP. I understand Hindu religion better than the BJP does."
Replying to a question, he said he visits mosques, gurudwaras, churches and other places of worship as he respects every religion.
Describing Hinduism and Hindutva as two different concepts, he said, "Hinduism is a liberal and progressive concept that teaches love and respect for others, while there is hatred, insecurity and anger in the foundation of the BJP's idea of Hindutva."
"The BJP has ownership of Hindutva. But no one can claim sole ownership of Hinduism because it is a great concept. No one group can have a monopoly over it... We are a party which believes not in Hindutva, but in Hinduism," he said.
"When I visited temples during the Gujarat elections, the BJP went mad thinking how did I go there, although I had been to temples earlier. I had also visited Ayodhya," he said.
On a question regarding efforts to bring the issue of Ram temple into focus ahead of the upcoming polls, he said, "The Modi government has failed to fulfil the promises of ending corruption, bringing good days, providing jobs to youths and right prices to the farmers for their produce."
"This government can see only one way to save itself. But it will not be able to save itself," he said.
Later, canvassing for the Congress in Dhar in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "failed" to keep his electoral promise of ushering in acche din (good days) and people are feeling "betrayed" now.
Gandhi also accused the prime minister of helping only select industrialists while neglecting farmers, tribals and youth of the country.
Gandhi said the ruling BJP wanted to create two types of Hindustan -- one for the rich and another for the poor.
"On the contrary, the Congress believes in one Hindustan where if loan of rich people is waived similarly the debt of farmers will also be waived," he said.
The state BJP unit, however, said Gandhi was levelling "false and fabricated" allegations as the Modi government has done a lot for youth of the country by facilitating setting up of new factories and start-ups, while a number of schemes have been launched to help the poor and tribals.
In his speech, Gandhi said people of India, especially youths, had voted Modi to power by trusting him for the promises he had made.
The Congress chief began a two-day tour of the Malwa-Nimar region, a BJP stronghold, in the central Indian state, from Ujjain on Monday.
The Congress has been out of power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003 and is trying to make a comeback in the forthcoming assembly elections, scheduled to be held on November 28.
Gandhi said the Congress will waive loans of farmers in Madhya Pradesh within ten days if it is voted to power in the state.
"If new chief minister (of Congress) delays waiving loans of farmers even by one day (beyond the promised ten days), we will install a new chief minister," he said.
The Congress president also promised to set up food processing units near farms so that farmers could avail good price for their produce and their wards get employment.
Continuing his attack on the BJP government at the Centre, Gandhi said, "After coming to power, prime minister Narendra Modi failed to help tribals, youths, labourers and farmers, and instead helped only 10-15 industrialists like Anil Ambani, Nirav Modi, as a result of which people are feeling betrayed."
He said, "I wanted to ask you how many youths were given employment by Ambani and Nirav Modi. Life of how many farmers have they changed?"
While the BJP and the government have rejected these allegations, Gandhi has been accusing the Modi government of allowing liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who is facing loan default cases, as well as businessmen Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi flee the country. Besides, he has been alleging undue benefits in the Rafale deal to Anil Ambani's Reliance group, which has rejected the charges.
Nirav Modi and Choksi are accused in the alleged multi-crore PNB fraud.
"While he (Modi) has given Rs 35,000-40,000 crore to industrialists then why couldn't he give the money to you and your children for their education? What wrong have you done? (for not getting the monetary aid)?" Gandhi asked.
"Earlier Modiji used to say acche din aayenge (good days will come) but now people are saying chowkidar chor hai. This is the state of affairs of the country in just four years," he said.
BJP have strongly reacted to similar allegations made by Gandhi in the past and has accused him of using abusive language for the prime minister.
Reacting to Gandhi's speech, the state BJP spokesman Rahul Kothari said these he was levelling "false and fabricated" allegations on performance of the Modi government.
"The Modi government has done a lot for youths of the country by establishing new factories and start-ups. These steps have started yielding results," he said.
"The government has launched schemes like the 'Prime Minister Housing Scheme' and the 'Ujjwala Yojana' (for providing LPG connections to women of BPL families) for the poor and tribals in a big way to help them," he said.
Kothari also countered Gandhi on the issue of development.
"Rahul Gandhi only talks about setting up mobile phone manufacturing factories in his speeches, but the Modi government has taken the number of such units from just two to 120 after coming to power," Kothari said.