A day after police detained a Puri temple servitor for allegedly threatening to prevent West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee from entering the Jagannath Temple, officials of the 12th century shrine said the controversy was a non-issue.
“Doesn’t she (Banerjee) go to other temples. Somebody said something and people latched on to it. What has Jagannath Temple got to do with it? Though there is no mention of her plan to visit the temple, she welcome to visit,” said an official of the temple who did not want to be named.
He urged HT to speak to another official of the temple. Contacted, the second official too declined to be named, claiming that the alleged statement of servitor Somnath Khuntia against Banerjee had acquired political overtones.
“Officially, we don’t even have anything in writing. We heard about the controversy like you have. It is a non-issue. The temple does not have a problem if the West Bengal CM comes,” said the official.
Reports stated Trinamool Congress chief Banerjee, who started a three-day visit to Odisha from Tuesday, would visit the temple on Wednesday.
Police detained Khuntia for questioning, agencies reported Puri superintendent of police Sarthak Sarangi as saying. The PTI reported Khuntia, a sevayat of the temple, claimed that the servitors were annoyed with Banerjee as she had allegedly supported the consumption of beef. “We came to know from media reports that she supports eating beef. It is against our culture and traditions. She should not be allowed to enter the Jagannath Temple. We will oppose her visit to the shrine,” he reportedly said.
Sarangi was quoted as saying adequate security arrangements were in place for Banerjee’s visit to the coastal town and the Jagannath Temple. Despite attempts, Sarangi could not reached for comment on Wednesday.
Arya Kumar Gyanendra, the state convenor of Trinamool Congress, claimed that Banerjee’s Odisha visit was “purely personal” and had nothing to do with politics.
Sources in the chief minister’s office here, however, said Banerjee was likely to call on her Odisha counterpart, Naveen Patnaik. Banerjee and Patnaik had met at Parliament House in Delhi on April 10.
The proposed meeting of the two non-BJP and neighbouring chief ministers assumes significance as both the ruling parties in West Bengal (Trinamool Congress) and Odisha (Biju Janata Dal — BJD) have been entangled in the chit fund scam which is being investigated by the CBI.
As both the parties are allegedly being targeted by the BJP, speculation is rife that Banerjee and Patnaik may draw a specific strategy to counter the saffron surge in their respective states.
With inputs from PTI