Andhra’s Ramatheertham temple foundation stone laid amid political row

After a vandalism incident at the temple triggered statewide protests last year, the YSRCP government sanctioned Rs 3 crore for reconstruction works.
TDP leader Ashok Gajapathi Raju arguing with police, as Andhra’s Ramatheertham temple foundation stone laid amid political row
TDP leader Ashok Gajapathi Raju arguing with police, as Andhra’s Ramatheertham temple foundation stone laid amid political row
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Tension prevailed at Ramatheertham temple in Andhra Pradesh's Vizianagaram district on Wednesday, December 23, when former Union Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju reportedly  tried to remove the plaque installed to lay foundation stone for reconstruction of the temple. Ashok, a trustee of the temple, and other leaders of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) entered into an argument with officials and YSRCP leaders. The incident occurred a few minutes before the foundation stone laying ceremony on the Ramatheertham hill near Vizianagaram.

The temple was in news in December last year after unidentified persons vandalised a idol of Lord Rama, triggering massive protests by the opposition parties accusing the YSRCP government of inaction against an alleged rise in attacks on Hindu temples in the state.  At the time, the YSRCP government had refused to accept Ashok’s donation of Rs 1 lakh for the reconstruction of the temple. 

Deputy Chief Minister Pushpa Srivani, Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivas and others later laid the foundation stone for the temple on December 22.

Ashok, a TDP politburo member, was apparently miffed over not being informed beforehand about the plaque laying ceremony as per temple norms, and over the names appearing on the foundation plaque and his name being written at the bottom of it. He alleged that the state government ignored the protocol and also violated tradition and culture. He said the temple committee was not consulted before deciding the foundation stone ceremony. Ashok’s family had been functioning as hereditary trustees of the temple for the last 400 years.

Ashok also turned down the invitation to break the coconut at the ceremony. He argued that only the trustee was supposed to perform puja and lay the foundation stone.

Meanwhile, state ministers slammed the TDP leader for creating ruckus at the temple. Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivas reiterated that the state government is committed towards the development of Ramatheertham temple.

The minister said that Ashok Gajapathi Raju created chaos by forcibly removing the plaque which had the names of minister and government officials engraved on it as per the protocol. He said that the latter wanted to make a donation under a clause to use it for idols but the officials refused it as the idols are being offered by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) free of cost.

The minister stated that the TDP leader intentionally went on a “rampage” although he was formally invited by the temple Executive Officer and other officials to the foundation stone laying ceremony. He said that action would be taken against Ashok. He alleged that the temple was deeply neglected during the previous government and questioned Raju about what he had done for the development of Ramatheertham all these years.

“Mansas Trust plundered the government lands and neglected the development of the temples, which is why the state government had sanctioned Rs 3 crore for Ramatheertham temple,” he said, adding that the government installed new idols and also sanctioned Rs 1 crore for the development works.

Meanwhile, Minister for Municipal Administration Botsa Satyanarayana dared Ashok Gajapati Raju to answer why the government had to sanction Rs 3 crore when the Ramatheertham temple development was a matter for the Mansas Trust and why he did not spend the money from Mansas Trust on temple development.

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