* Congress VP’s agenda was commul, alleges BJP
* Some supporters near Xatra influenced by RSS: Congress
* Gogoi announces Rs 20 lakh for Barpeta Xatra
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, Dec 14: The political slugfest over Rahul Gandhi's visit to Barpeta showed no signs of let-up as the BJP demanded an apology from the Congress vice president for showing "disrespect" to the revered Barpeta Xatra, while the Congress sought to justify its claims that the RSS had conspired to create trouble citing "reports" from the district administration.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said everyone has the right to visit a place of worship.
"No one had prevented anyone from entering a temple before. Instigated by the RSS, there were four to fifty women at the gate (of Barpeta Xatra) to prevent Rahul Gandhi from entered the mostery. We did not want to create a law and order situation, so we did not enter the Xatra in the morning," Gogoi said, also claiming that some members of the Xatra committee also did not want Rahul Gandhi to visit the Xatra.
Demanding an apology from Rahul Gandhi, BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said the Chief Minister, APCC president Anjan Dutta and minister Chandan Sarkar were giving contradictory statements on the cancellation of Rahul Gandhi's visit to the Xatra.
At a press conference, Sarma produced a TV bite given by Sarkar in which he says Rahul did not have the time to observe local traditions like taking a wash and wearing a dhoti which is mandatory before entering the temple.
Sarkar said Rahul didn't enter the temple as he didn't want to disrespect the priests.
"Anjan Dutta said that they were running late and so they skipped the visit to the Xatra," Sarma said, adding that the Congress vice president's visit was aimed at dividing the people on commul lines. He also questioned why Rahul Gandhi was wearing a towel not associated with Assamese tradition instead of the gamosa.
In a quick response, APCC president Anjan Dutta reiterated that the Xatra committee had reservations over Rahul Gandhi's visit to the mostery.
"The Deka Xatradhikar, who was in charge of the Xatra, told us that he cannot do anything if the committee does not allow it. The secretary of the committee Tarun Das was vehemently opposed to the visit. Of course, not all the women standing outside the Xatra were RSS supporters…but some were definitely influenced by the RSS," Dutta said.
Congress leader Pradyut Borodloi also cited a report by Barpeta additiol deputy commissioner Ramen Sarma in which it was reportedly stated that RSS-backed supporters would obstruct Rahul Gandhi at the Xatra.
"It was a carefully engineered conspiracy. Not all the women were aware about it," Bordoloi said.
Meanwhile, in an apparent bid to mollify Xatra devotees, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today announced Rs 20 lakh for development of the Barpeta Xatra.