Though authorities have apologised, the President’s office has strongly disapproved of this and asked for an explanation.
This isn't the first time that such an incident has happened at Puri, it has the dubious distinction of stopping many dignitaries from entering the holy sanctum.
The temple has a board saying only Hindus allowed. As per temple rules, only the shankaracharya can make exceptions and changes. Among the most notable was when Indira Gandhi was stopped from entering the Jagannath temple in Puri in 1984 on the grounds that she was married to a Parsi.
Not just Indira, even Mahatma Gandhi was stopped when he took an entourage of Muslims, Harijans and Dalits to the temple.
Run-ins at temples for politicians belonging to the Gandhi family have been fairly common.
In 1984, when Rajiv Gandhi was PM his wife Sonia Gandhi was stopped from entering the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. She was disallowed on the grounds that she was a Christian and Italian. It led to a diplomatic fallout. India issued an economic blockade against Nepal which, of course, the PMO denied having any connection with the incident involving Sonia. But then Natwar Singh, who was then the external affairs minister, was sent to find a way out.
Again Sonia Gandhi when she took over as party president in 1998 went to Tirupati temple for blessings. She was made to sign the visitors’ book which wanted to know if she was a Hindu. She had then replied by saying “I follow the principles of my family”.
Subbirami Reddy, a Congress leader, was the then head of Tirupati Board and he had facilitated her entry.
Just recently during the Gujarat polls, there was much controversy when Rahul visited the Somnath temple. Questions were raised as to why did he sign the visitors book for non-Hindus. The Congress issued a strong reaction denying it.
Rasheed Kidwai said: “The Gandhis have been very sensitive about this issue, as you know even Sonia was stopped and then there was diplomatic fallout.”
In the age of political temple runs this is something the Gandhis are very conscious of.