Maharashtra unveils temple restoration plan

Maharashtra unveils temple restoration plan

The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance has earmarked Rs 101 crore for the project for the financial year 2021-22

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP Chief Sharad Pawar. Credit: PTI

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government has cleared a temple's restoration plan in Maharashtra, months after the party came under pressure from the BJP to reopen places of worship, including temples, in the state.

The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance has earmarked Rs 101 crore for the restoration project for the financial year 2021-22. This would also be included in next year’s annual budget.

The government has also set up a nine-member committee headed by Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar to take the plan forward.

The temples in Maharashtra were shut from March, due to lockdowns prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and only reopened on 16 November. The MVA had received criticism from the BJP over the delay in reopening places of worship.

A verbal spat on the issue between Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Thackeray in October snowballed into a national issue.

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During the recently-concluded winter session of the Maharashtra legislature, Thackeray had announced the plan to restore old temples and it was cleared during Wednesday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.

The committee includes officials of the Finance, Public Works, Tourism, Environment, Cultural Affairs, Dean of Sir JJ College of Architecture and Director of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, and Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation.

In a letter to Thackeray in October, Koshyari had said: “….You have been a strong votary of Hindutva.  You have publicly espoused your devotion for Lord Rama by visiting Ayodhya after taking charge as Chief Minister. You visited Vitthal Rukmini Mandir in Pandharpur and performed the puja on Ashadi Ekadashi. I wonder if you are receiving any divine premonition to keep postponing the reopening of the places of worship time and again or have you suddenly turn ‘secular’ yourself, the term you hated.”

Thackeray, however, had shot back writing to him: “You have taken oath as a Governor…and secularism is a part of the Constitution. However, I don’t need a certificate on Hindutva from anybody, nor do I have to learn it from anyone. Those giving a warm welcome to people who compare my state and its capital (Mumbai) with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir don’t fit in my Hindutva.”

In the wake of the governor's letter, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemning the kind of language used by the Governor.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah snubbed the Governor saying, “I have read the letter. He has made a passing reference. I believe some restraint could have been exercised."