Drawing flak, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Saturday withdrew a controversial plan after it wrote to the Executive Officer (EO) of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD).
The TTD manages the famous Lord Venkateswara shrine atop Tirumala and the ASI sought to know the feasibility of declaring it and other sub-temples as protected monuments.
The letter was written by the ASI's Amaravati Circle office in Vijayawada but was withdrawn by ASI Director General Usha Sharma.
The ASI office in Vijayawada had earlier said that it had received orders from its headquarters, and keeping in view the temple's history, it was directed to conduct a feasibility study.
"Hence, you are requested to provide information on the temples under the TTD and also cooperate with the ASI officials," the letter stated.
According to reports, the TTD oversees 12 other important temples, and the Andhra Pradesh accused the Centre of playing a role in the ASI's controversial letter.
Responding to the first letter, Endowments Minister KE Krishna Murthy told reporters, “Any decision pertaining to Tirumala must be taken keeping in view the sentiments of the people. We are prepared to dispel any doubts anyone may have. We will discuss the issue with the Chief Minister. The TTD and the State government have the capacity to protect the temples."
TTD EO Anil Singhal told reporters that he later received a phone call from the ASI DG, who clarified that the Centre had no intention of taking control of the TTD temples.
Taking to Twitter, BJP National Spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said, "Culture Minister of Culture Mahesh Sharma told me that there is no question of Centre taking over Tirumala/TTD or any temples or mosques. Only when a state govt requests intervention, Centre considers such a request. Please stop misleading lies being spread by vested political groups."
Rao also said that the concerned ASI officer in Vijayawada "acted irresponsibly without Ministry's permission," and disciplinary action had been taken.