The controversy over the wind induced damage caused to the ‘Saptarishis’ statues at the Mahakal Lok corridor in Ujjain refuses to die down.
The idols of six of the seven Saptarishis (seven sages, according to Hindu mythology), all made of fibreglass reinforced plastic or FRP collapsed due to gusty winds on Sunday that left a trail of damage across Ujjain.
In separate press conferences held in Bhopal and Delhi, respectively, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress on Tuesday accused each other of playing with the religious sentiments of people over the issue.
While the ruling BJP gave itself a clean chit, the Congress accused it of corruption and questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had inaugurated the first phase of the corridor developed on the Mahakaleshwar temple premises in October 2022.
Amidst reports that the construction work was shoddy and the material used was not suitable for the construction of such giant statues, Cabinet Minister Bhupendra Singh denied the allegations on behalf of the government and said that the repair and restoration would be undertaken by the private player who had developed the corridor.
“The report of Commissioner of Ujjain Division clearly states that the statues fell due to very strong winds. There was a pedestal of about 10 feet and the statues were 11 feet high. For this reason, these idols have been affected. So, overall, there is no corruption anywhere on this. Congress is doing dirty politics on the issue,” Mr. Singh said, adding that the Congress had not presented a single fact in which it could provide any evidence of corruption.
At a press conference at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters in Delhi on Tuesday evening, however, J.P. Aggarwal, the party’s in-charge for Madhya Pradesh rejected the explanation, even as he accused the BJP of shielding corrupt officials and asked for a probe monitored by a High Court judge. Earlier, Mr. Singh had said that if the Congress was alleging corruption, it should also explain why two instalments of payments were released to the company during its tenure.
“There are many such temples all over India where nothing happened even after the earthquake. Have they installed paper idols in Mahakal Lok for the Saptarishi idols to be damaged by the wind? Crores of rupees were spent on this [inauguration] event attended by the Prime Minister and the whole country saw that tamasha (spectacle),” Mr. Aggarwal said.
Abhay Dubey, vice president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee’s media department, added that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated Mahakal Lok, he described it as as sublime but today, when corruption had come to the fore, he was not even ready to tweet about it.
While Mr. Singh said that the artwork used for the project was only possible with FRP and such statues were installed in many places in India and abroad, Mr. Aggarwal said that if the Congress was voted to power, it would install statues made of granite or other sturdy materials as this was a question of faith for “millions and billions”.