Uttarakhand BJP's Walk-Back On Char Dham Board Before Elections

by GoNews Desk 7 months ago Views 3958

BJP Uttarakhand Char Dham Board Act Repealed
In a U-turn right before the election, the Uttarakhand government has dissolved the Char Dham board which was constituted last year amidst strong protests by Opposition and saints’ bodies. The decision to dissolve the Baord was announced by CM Dhami himself from Dehradun.

The Bill to constitute the Board had been passed in the state’s Vidhan Sabha despite heay opposition. Under the new law, the control of 53 temples including Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri (the chaar dhaam circuit) was passed to the government. The CM was made its president and the administration and running of the temples was handed over to government officials.

The governments at the state and central level had spent thousands of crores in bhuldig the chaar dhaam road and for the upkeep of temples recently. But, now that the upcoming elections are showing signs of turning out badly for the BJP, the Board constituted a year ago is being disbanded, according to those in the know. Along with opposition leader Harish rawat, even saints were opposed to the move and had come to Delhi this month itself to ‘warn’ the Central government and apprise it of their displeasure with the same.

Government Rights On Temple Administration

The Char Dham Devasthanam Board had been given the authority to make administrative policies, to take decisions that will bring the provisions of the Act into effect, and to allocate and monitor the funding related to administration. This board had been given control over the offerings of money, gold, and ornaments given by devotees to the temples under its purview.

This Board met thrice under the Trivendra Singh Rawat government wherein the development of the areas surrounding the Char Dham yatra was discussed. In 1993, the Badrinath and Kedarnath act was passed and a Board was constituted, which included the two temples of Badrinath and Kedarnath and 45 others, according to an English language daily. The head of this board was appointed by the government, though they were not directly under the government as now.

It is significant that the sadhus (saints, holy men) of the state are upset that the government has taken over control of the offerings and wealth of the temples. It is known that the majority of the provisions of the 1993 are not effective anyore, which called for the constitution of a new board under the present Act which is now being repealed.

The Yamunotri and Gongotri sites included in the Char Dhams were under the care of a local trust and the government had no share in the offerings/donations received by the temples.

Fear Of Miffed Voters Ahead Of Elections Forced Govt Hand?

It is being believed that Trivendra Singh Rawat was replaced by Tirath Singh Rawat by the party preceisely to rectify such mistakes. Tirath Singh Rawat was part of a meeting by the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) where priests and VHP leaders criticized the decision by Trivendra Singh Rawat. Then, Tirath Singh spoke about bringing 51 temples out of the purview of this Board and ordered it to conduct a review.

The ‘sants’ and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad hold that the properties and wealth of the mandirs (temples) ‘belong to Hindus’ and the government should have no say or control over them or the administration of its religious places.

BJP MP Subramaniam Swamy had challenged the move by the Trivendra Singh Rawat government in the High Court, but the court sided with the government. The government believed that they have peoples’ support in the issue as they expected better facilities and management in the temple. The opposition parties and the priests were opposed to the decision.

The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are the main opposition parties in Uttarakhand, and both had raised this issue vigorously. Those in the know say that this had the potential of alienating the sadhus and the priestly communities form the BJP which would have directly affected the Assembly elections due next year. The Congress had termed this decision ‘anti religion’.

Even common people ended up opposing the move and criticising it. Position holders in the Char Dham temples and other mandirs gathered under the banner of ‘Char Dham Mahapanchayat Hakukdhari’ and stood against the decision. Those running dharmshalas (accommodations for pilgrims) and shops in or near the temple premises also opposed the move.

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