The BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government distanced itself on Monday from controversial comments by firebrand MLA Sangeet Som, who questioned the Taj Mahal’s place in history and said the iconic monument was built by “traitors” who targeted Hindus.
The saffron party also appeared to disown the Sardhana legislator’s remarks and called his comments on the 17th century structure his “individual view”.
In a damaging control exercise Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said on Tuesday the Taj Mahal was an important tourist draw and it was immaterial who built it.
“It does not matter who built it and for what reason. It was built by the blood and sweat of Indian labourers... It is very important for us, especially from the tourism perspective. It is our priority to provide facilities and safety to tourists,” the chief minister said in Kushinagar.
Adityanath also announced his plan to visit the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri and other important monuments in Agra, a day after Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sangeet Som kicked up a storm over the mausoleum.
In a sarcastic reaction SP leader Azam Khan asked "Why only Taj Mahal? Demolish Rashtrapati Bhavan, Qutub Minar too".
Will govt now tell tourists not to visit Taj Mahal Owaisi on Sangeet Som’s remarks quipped.
The Taj Mahal draws crores of rupees in annual revenue but has received a barrage of negative comments in recent months from top BJP leaders, including Adityanath – who in June said the ivory-white marble mausoleum didn’t represent “Indian culture”.
Adityanath presided over a meeting to review the development projects in Agra on May 7 and also inspected the Yamuna but did not visit the Taj Mahal or areas close to the monument.
On July 11, the Adityanath government did not mention the Taj Mahal in “Hamari Sanskritik Virasat” (Our Cultural Heritage), a part of the annual budget presented in the state assembly by the minister for finance Rajesh Agarwal.
Last month, the state government omitted the reference to the Taj Mahal in a booklet published on the completion of six months of the Adityanath government.
The move drew sharp criticism, prompting state tourism minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi to remark that the Taj Mahal was of great importance to the state government as well as the nation.
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