Uttarakhand shrines out of Government control
BJP hopes major political pain point in poll-bound State has been resolved
The Uttarakhand Government on Tuesday took back the Char Dham Devasthanam Board Act that had sought to extend control over 51 Hindu shrines and had been opposed tooth and nail from seers and managements of the shrines. With this, the BJP hopes that a major political pain point for the party in Uttarakhand, just months before the Assembly elections, has been resolved.
“Keeping in mind the sentiments and interests of people, honour of priests and the dignity and respect of all stakeholders, the Uttarakhand Government, on the recommendation of the high-powered committee set up under Shri Manohar Kant Dhami, has decided to withdraw the Devasthanam Board Act,” said Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.
The move is intensely significant in terms of the State’s politics as the BJP was facing tremendous blowback and threat of protests against the Government led by its party in the State by Hindu religious groups of saints and seers and even the RSS-affiliate Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
The State saw three Chief Ministers in a year with Trivendra Singh Rawat, who had got the Act passed in 2019, having lost his job directly because of his personal unpopularity among Hindu groups over this step. His term was followed by a very short term of Tirath Singh Rawat and finally Mr. Dhami who, along with the BJP, seems to have decided to cut his losses close to the polls.
Among the 51 shrines that had come under the Government control when the Act was in force were Badrinath and Kedarnath.
Congress leader Harish Rawat compared this reversal of policy under public pressure to the repeal of the three contentious farm laws by the Union Government. “It’s a step taken by a Government which is afraid of losing, a step that has been taken under the pressure of temple managements, of people and the Congress party. We had opposed this Act when it was first introduced in the Assembly. We believe that if the Government believes it made a mistake in having set up the Board in the first place, then they should also apologise to the people of the State. The BJP takes these unilateral steps and has to retrace, just like they have in the matter of the three farm laws, which too they had to take back,” he said.
Senior BJP leaders said sustained opposition by Hindu religious groups wasn’t something the party could overcome especially with polls around the corner.