Visakhapatnam, December 22 (IANS): Tensions reigned at the Ramateertham temple in Andhra Pradesh’s Vizianagaram district on Wednesday when former Union Minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju attempted to remove the plaque installed to lay the foundation stone for the temple’s reconstruction. .
Raju, a temple administrator, and other leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) argued with officials and attempted to remove the plaque.
The incident occurred minutes before the cornerstone laying ceremony on Ramateertham Hill near the fort town of Vizianagaram.
Deputy Chief Minister P. Pushpa Srivani, Minister of Endowments V. Srinivas and others then laid the foundation stone for the temple.
Raju, a member of the TDP’s political bureau, was apparently angry with his name being written at the bottom of the plaque. He alleged that the state government ignored protocol and violated tradition and culture. He said the temple committee was not consulted before deciding on the foundation stone ceremony.
Raju also declined the invitation to crack the coconut during the ceremony. He argued that only the trustee was supposed to perform the puja and lay the foundation stone.
Raju’s family had been the temple trustee for 400 years.
The temple made the news in December last year after unidentified people vandalized a 400-year-old idol of Lord Rama, sparking a massive protest from opposition parties.
The government of the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) had refused to accept Raju’s donation of Rs 1 lakh for the reconstruction of the temple.
Meanwhile, ministers of state criticized the leader of the TDP for creating a ruckus at the temple. Endowment Minister V. Srinivas reiterated that the state government is committed to developing the Ramateertham Temple.
The minister said Ashok Gajapathi Raju created chaos by forcibly removing the plaque engraved with the names of the minister and government officials, in accordance with protocol. He said the latter wanted to donate under a clause allowing it to be used for idols, but officials refused because the idols are offered free of charge by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD).
The minister said the TDP leader had intentionally gone wild despite being officially invited by the temple’s EO and other officials to the cornerstone laying ceremony. He said action would be taken against Raju. He mentioned that the temple had been deeply neglected under the previous government and asked Raju about what he had done for the development of Ramateertham all these years.
Mansas Trust looted government land and neglected temple development, which is why the state government sanctioned Rs 3 crore for the Ramateertham temple, he said, adding that the government had installed de new idols and sanctioned Rs 1 crore for development work.
Meanwhile, Minister of Municipal Administration Botsa Satyanarayana challenged Ashok Gajapati Raju to answer why the government had to sanction 3 crore rupees while the development of the Ramateertham temple fell under the Mansas Trust and why he did not spend money from the Mansas Trust for temple development. “Isn’t he responsible for the development of the temple as president of the temple,” he asked.
He said such an outburst had never happened in Vizianagaram district for years, not even when the YSRCP leadership was in opposition.
He said Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy intended to develop Kodanda Ramalaya in Ramateertham as the second temple of Bhadradri and the government approved the funds. The government has taken steps to preserve the culture and traditions, but people like Ashok stand in the way of good deeds.