Discussion involving representatives of political parties

Instead of government takeover of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the city, an administrative mechanism that includes believers and devotees and accommodates the role of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore to a certain extent should be evolved, representatives of various political parties said at a discussion organised here on Wednesday.

The discussion, organised by the Kesari Memorial Journalists' Trust, was titled ‘Should the government take over the Padmanabhaswamy temple?' However, there was no dispute between the parties on the issue. In fact, there seemed to be a consensus among them that no government should take over the temple affairs.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader O. Rajagopal said a permanent set-up for the healthy administration of the temple in the coming years was what was needed.

Whether the rights of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore in temple affairs should continue as per the covenant entered into by the State and the royal family when princely rule came to an end in 1947 was something that the Supreme Court would have to decide, Mr. Rajagopal said.

The rights and privileges of the royal family with regard to the temple rites and rituals should be protected but these privileges should not be allowed to be misused.

Mr. Rajagopal said the huge assets of the temple were at the heart of the tussle over its administrative control.

‘No takeover'

Communist Party of India (Marxist) district secretary Kadakampally Surendran said the Left Democratic Front government had no interest in taking over the temple.

However, it was a matter of concern that the temple's assets, worth crores, no longer belonged to it and were being allowed to be usurped by vested interests.

All the properties around the temple – Rangavilasam palace, Sundaravilasam palace, Mithranandapuram – were no longer the temple's property, Mr. Surendran pointed out.

Call to protect assets

The royal family had a great tradition of being progressive and it had been an integral part of the history and traditions of the temple. The temple administration should be made sound and the assets protected but it certainly would not be right to deny the royal family any role in the temple's affairs, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala said.

The rights and privileges of the royal family in continuing the temple traditions should not be tampered with but to what extent these rights should be exercised with regard to the temple's administration was something that had to be discussed widely, Mr. Chennithala felt.

Communist Party of India senior leader Ramachandran Nair said the judiciary alone could not be expected to give a final decision on an issue that had several other dimensions.

Need for accountability

Karamana Hari, president of the temple employees' union affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, said even though the government had made it clear that it had no intention of taking over the temple affairs, transparency and accountability should be brought about in temple administration and its assets management.

There were no clear accounts of the temple's current revenue or its sources of income, he said.

Mr. Hari said that as per a court ruling, the temple and related properties could not be accounted as hereditary property of the palace and they were public property. Hence, the assets of the temple should not be allowed to be squandered, Mr. Hari said.