Responding to a challenge thrown at him by Kerala state Hindu Aikya Vedi leader KP Sasikala on a local news channel recently, Ernakulam Parur MLA VD Satheesan on Tuesday released an audio clipping allegedly of Sasikala in which she claims that the state government was taking away revenue from temples and was thus looting them.
Sasikala, who had been making similar allegations of late, denied that she ever made such a speech during a discussion conducted by Reporter TV on Monday. On the show, she had asserted that she had never said that income from temples in the state was being taken directly by the government.
During the discussion, she also challenged Satheesan, who was insisting that she had made the alleged speech, to prove his accusations within 24 hours.
This happened in the wake of Devaswom Minister VS Sivakumar's reply to Sangh Parivar groups in Kerala including the BJP, who have been alleging for years that the state government has been taking away money completely from the temples.
On Monday, with the Devaswom Minister VS Sivakumar saying in the Assembly that the government has not diverted a single penny from temples by adding that the temple funds are being used for temple developments, the issue has again come to the fore.
Moreover, the Minister said the government has spent Rs 235 crores on temples under various boards from the state exchequer. “After this government came to power, Rs 106.30 crore has been spent on Travancore Devaswom Board, Rs 60.31 on Malabar Devaswom Board, Rs 62.18 crore for providing security at Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Rs 2 crore on Cochin Devaswom Board and Rs 50 lakh on Oodalmanickam temple from the state exchequer,” he said.
The Minister was responding to MLA VD Satheesan’s submission regarding the issue. In the submission, Satheesan also explained the grants given to temples by the government and has claimed that all allegations were baseless.
With this, the Hindu political groups have now come down heavily on the government asking why the government should have a Devaswom Ministry and why the government is not taking over mosques and churches in the state.
Vellappally Natesan, the general secretary of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), was the one who brought up the issue recently. During a speech in his recent Kerala Yatra, he had alleged that the state government’s target is temple wealth.
BJP state President V Muraleedharan told media that the claim by VS Sivakumar that the funds from temples are not used only for the development of temples is false. Muraleedharan also said that he would release the evidence within one week.