SP leader triggers row by raising questions on Ram temple consecration ceremony again

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Lucknow, Feb 8 (PTI) Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Swami Prasad Maurya has once again stirred up a controversy by raising questions on the consecration ceremony at the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Maurya's statement in the Uttar Pradesh legislative council on Wednesday drew sharp criticism by Deputy Chief Ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak, while SP leaders also came out openly against their party colleague.

Speaking on the governor's address, Maurya raised questions on Ram Lalla's "Pran Pratishtha" (consecration) ceremony and said when Lord Ram has been worshipped in Ayodhya for thousands of years, what was the need to spend crores of rupees on the consecration ceremony on January 22.

Talking to reporters in the Vidhan Bhawan complex on Thursday, Keshav Prasad Maurya held SP president Akhilesh Yadav responsible for his party leader's statements.

"The Samajwadi Party is going to become the Samaptwadi party in 2024. It will be due to Akhilesh Yadav. Because if anyone says anything in this party, he cannot do so without the orders of the SP chief. Hence, I hold Akhilesh Yadav responsible for any such statement.

"If he (Yadav) does not agree with anyone's statement, he should take action against him (Maurya). And if he does not take action, then only SP chief Akhilesh Yadav is responsible for whatever poisonous statements are coming," the deputy chief minister said.

Pathak said, "The whole world is celebrating the inauguration of the grand temple of Lord Ram. God will never forgive him (Maurya) for making such statements on such an occasion. The people of the country and the state will definitely teach them a lesson when the time comes." Maurya's statement was also condemned by his party colleagues.

SP's chief whip in the Assembly Manoj Kumar Pandey condemned Maurya in very harsh words.

Talking to reporters, he said, "I do not want to give any statement on what he (Maurya) has said. A person who does not have mental balance keeps making such statements. The party has repeatedly asked him not to do so, but when a deranged man does not want to listen to instructions, no one can do anything." Asked about Maurya's statement, SP general secretary Shivpal Singh Yadav said, "There should be no propaganda on religion, it should be practised," but did not elaborate.

On the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) charge that Maurya is giving such statements at the behest of Akhilesh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav accused the saffron party of always lying.

Congress Legislature Party leader Aradhana Mishra said no one has the right to hurt anyone's religious beliefs.

"Maurya's statement may be his personal opinion," she added.

In his address, Maurya had said, "In the governor's address, there has been a lot of applause regarding Ram Lalla's Pran Pratishtha. It seems as if Ram Lalla did not exist before the BJP government came to power. On one hand, it is said that Shri Ram is the lord of crores of people in the country, on the other hand, the BJP is hurting the sentiments of people and enacting such a drama as if it has brought Ram.

"While it is known to the world that Ram has been worshipped there (Ayodhya) for thousands of years, where does the question of Pran Pratishtha arise? When Ram Lalla has been worshipped there for thousands of years, what was the justification for spending billions and trillions of rupees on the consecration ceremony again? I question this. Ram Lalla, who was already there, should have been taken and installed in the temple. Where did this consecration come from?" The SP leader said the ceremony was a programme of the BJP. "The organiser of the program was the BJP, the chief guest was from the BJP, the arrangements were made by the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Apart from these three, who else was there? It was not a cultural or government programme. It was a programme of the BJP, RSS and VHP," he said.

Maurya had earlier stoked a controversy by alleging that certain verses in the Ramcharitmanas "insult" a large section of the society on the basis of caste and hence, those should be banned. PTI ABN RC