Going against the party line on the Puri, BJP MLA of the pilgrimage town, Jayant Sarangi, on Thursday said that the work close to the Jagannath temple here should be completed as soon as possible and urged parties not to politicise the issue.
Sarangi’s statement came a day after the BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra demanded that the work in the prohibited zone of the 800-year-old temple be stopped accusing the BJD government of the state of carrying out the project illegally.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on May 9 informed the Orissa High Court that the ongoing construction work might have caused damage to the 12th-century shrine and the state government project was being carried out without valid permission from the competent authorities.
“It is better for the temple as well as for the local people to complete the work without further delay. I also request parties and people not to politicise the corridor project issue, the Puri MLA told a press conference.
Sarangi said that the ASI’s stand has delayed the project which he has been supporting from the very beginning. If it is not completed before monsoon, people of the pilgrim town would face a lot of problems in their daily activities due to the deep pits dug around the temple for construction of different facilities, he said.
He appealed to both the state and the central governments to work in coordination with each other for completing the works before the rainy season. Claiming that he was the first to raise the heritage corridor issue in the Assembly, the BJP leader said that a House committee headed by the Speaker has been formed to look into the matter. Besides, the matter is under consideration of the Orissa High Court, he added.
The BJP MLA’s statement was in contrast to senior BJP leaders such as Patra and Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi. Patra, who unsuccessfully contested the Puri Lok Sabha seat in 2019, on Wednesday charged the BJD administration with undertaking the heritage corridor project work in an illegal manner.
Aparajita Sarangi had also demanded that the work for the project be stopped immediately after the ASI informed the high court that it had not given any permission to undertake construction work in the restricted zone of the temple.
Asked whether he was supporting the demolition of several mutts near the temple because of the project, the Puri MLA said, “What can I do if Mutt heads and others come forward to donate land for it?” However, only two days ago, he had said that no one is happy with the heritage corridor project and all have parted their land for it out of compulsion.
On May 11, Sarangi said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should intervene in the controversy and resolve the row, while on Thursday, he demanded that the project be completed soon. On his changing stance on the issue, Sarangi said, “I have replied according to the questions of the media.”
Sarangi claimed that several developmental projects have been taken up in Puri after he became the MLA and none of them, except the heritage project, faced opposition from any quarter.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik along with Puri’s titular king Gajapati Dibya Singha Deb had last year laid the foundation stone for the project which seeks to provide better amenities to pilgrims, including toilets and cloakrooms.
A PIL claiming that construction work for the project has affected the health of the temple was filed in the high court which had ordered a joint inspection of the Jagannath temple by the ASI and the state government.
The state had informed the court that correspondences were exchanged between the Odisha government and the National Monuments Authority (NMA), which functions under the Union Ministry of Culture and is responsible for grant of permission for construction-related activity in the prohibited and regulated areas.
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