The state opposition Congress on Sunday termed Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s act of sporting a skull cap on the occasion of Eid as a “politically motivated gesture” in an election year.

State Congress spokesman Mukesh Nayak said Mr. Chouhan’s act was aimed at attracting Muslim votes in Madhya Pradesh, where Assembly election is due by the year-end.

Mr. Chouhan’s gesture on Friday triggered a controversy and he faced criticism both within his party BJP and outside.

This was not the first time Mr. Chouhan had sported a skull cap but the controversy arose due to comments made by film actor Raza Murad, who was present at the Bhopal Eidgah where the Chief Minister was seen wearing the cap.

Mr. Murad, while appreciating Mr. Chouhan, said people should learn from the BJP leader and understand that merely wearing a cap does not defile anyone’s religion.

While the Bollywood actor did not name anyone, his barbs were apparently directed at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has in the past refused to don skull cap.

Mr. Murad’s remarks triggered a war of words between him and BJP leader Uma Bharti, who did not appreciate Chouhan’s Eid gesture, terming it as “cheap“.

A state BJP spokesman, reacting to Mr. Murad’s comments, said on Saturday that if wearing a skull cap does not defile one’s religion then what objections do members of a community have to the singing of “Vande Mataram”.

Congress used the controversy to take potshots at Mr. Chouhan and Mr. Modi, saying both BJP Chief Ministers had used the skull cap for political reasons.

In 2011, the Gujarat Chief Minister had refused to put on a skull cap offered by a Muslim cleric during his ‘sadbhavana’ fast.

While Mr. Modi had refused to wear the cap in order to appease his Hindu vote bank, Mr. Chouhan’s move was aimed at attracting Muslim votes, Mr. Nayak said on Saturday.

Mr. Chouhan himself had tried to put a “cap” on the controversy, saying an occasion like Eid should not be politicised.