The BJP may have grand plans about construction of a magnificent Ram temple at Ayodhya with its national president, Nitin Gadkari even imploring Muslims to extend their support to the cause, but an already existing Shiva temple inside the party’s state headquarters compound here is badly craving for attention.
And curiously the party that boasts of having liberated Ram Lala from the Babar’s encroachment at Ayodhya, is finding it an uphill task to get the temple inside its own office campus ‘liberated’ from its priest who has challenged party’s efforts to evict him from the temple-cum his one room residence, in the court.
The party cites the encroachment as the reason responsible for the plight of the temple—a charge the priest strongly refutes and alleges that having once demolished this temple the party wants him to vacate the place he has been taking care of before the building was allotted to the BJP.
As someone enters the bungalow no 7, the BJP state headquarters, from the main gate at the Vidhan Sabha Marg, he is invariably shocked to see a dilapidated and neglected temple with statues of Shiva, Hanuman, Vishnu, Ram, Laxman, Sita among others under a canopy inside.
The white wash that might have been done on the canopy and walls long back has been covered with black muddy coat, forget about flooring and plaster. And in the back of it there are heaps of rubbish functioning as an urinal for many.
“Yes, we agree the temple in the party office complex is in a bad shape and often becomes a cause for embarrassment for us,” BJP state vice-president and spokesman, Hridaynarayan Dixit said, adding, “We do want to give a facelift to the temple but the priest who has encroached the temple does not allow us to do this.”
However, priest, Pandit Ram Gopal Sharma has a different story to tell. According to him his father Ganga Sahaya was a personal servant of first chairman of the Legislative Council, Sir Sita Ram who got him employed as cyclo-operator at the government press then situated in the same building, which is now known as the BJP headquarters.
“My father started taking care of the temple inside the building before Independence and also lived there in the same room within the temple ground,” he said showing a copy of electricity connection in his father’s name.
The priest alleges that BJP leaders asked him to vacate the place when the building was allotted to the party three decades ago and when he did not oblige, the care takers of building started harassing him.
“A man whom the party leaders clamed was mad smashed statutes in the temple in 1991 and later in 1998 they demolished the temple wall,” said he pointing to some newspaper clippings recording the incidents.
The priest says his Suit of Injunction (Shakarji vs Laxman Singh) in the lower division court here for last 12 years. “My submission is that I am a rightful caretaker of the temple where anybody has the right to worship and the BJP cannot claim it as its own property,” said the priest, himself a law graduate.
Dixt said that party leaders once did request the priest to allow them renovation of the temple, dispute notwithstanding. “But he did not allow us”, Dixit regretted.
“This is true they once casually asked me,” the priest admitted, adding “But I told them to donate me money and I will renovate the temple and give accounts of the spent money but they did not agree,” he said, adding “If they will renovate it, I fear they could produce the renovation cost etc as a proof of ownership of the temple in the court.”
It seems like Ram Lala who is endlessly waiting to get a grand temple at Ayodhya, Shiva, his reverent senior, also has no option but to wait and wait for a facelift of the temple at the BJP headquarters.