AAP, BJP spar over demolition of Hanuman temple at Chandni Chowk

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New Delhi, Jan 5 (PTI) The AAP and the BJP continued to blame each other on Tuesday for the demolition of a Hanuman temple at Chandni Chowk.

Addressing a press conference, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj claimed that on December 20 last year, the deputy commissioner of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) had sworn in court to demolish the temple and said Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta should clarify on it.

'The deputy commissioner of the MCD had said in an affidavit that the Hanuman temple could not be demolished due to Diwali, but now, all preparations to demolish the structure were made,' he said.

Bhardwaj claimed that the Manushi Sangathan had filed a petition in court seeking to demolish the temple. Sanjay Bhargava, who runs the organisation, is known to be close to BJP MP Vijay Goel.

'The BJP's enmity is with the AAP, it should not take out its enmity on Lord Ram's beloved Lord Hanuman. The BJP will not be able to form a government in Delhi by doing this. Instead, it will only upset Lord Ram,' he said.

Gupta, on the other hand, claimed that the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Delhi government had, in October 2019, said the MCD and the police were not cooperating with it and sought a court direction for the removal of the temple to continue its work under the Chandni Chowk redevelopment project.

'The Religious Affairs Committee of the Arvind Kejriwal government, chaired by a minister, could have saved the temple by telling the court that adjustments could be made in the redevelopment project, but it did not do so. The Kejriwal government is completely responsible for the demolition of the temple,' he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said the AAP government should reconstruct the temple and probe why its Religious Affairs Committee did not make any efforts to save the structure.

BJP MP and the party's former Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari also demanded the Delhi government to reconstruct the temple.

'It is surprising that the so-called Hanuman devotee, Arvind Kejriwal, has not uttered a single word over the demolition of the temple. He should immediately ensure reconstruction of the Hanuman temple in view of people's sentiments,' he said.

Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor accused Bhardwaj and other AAP leaders of spreading 'lies' for the last two days over the demolition of the temple.

'AAP leaders are constantly alleging that the NDMC has demolished the temple, which is only the half-truth.

'The truth is that the demolition of the temple was never an NDMC programme. The Delhi government's Public Works Department moved a application in a related matter in the high court on October 22, 2019, seeking a binding direction to the NDMC to demolish the temple,' he said.

In the last 15 months, the Kejriwal government could have put the matter before the Religious Affairs Committee for a review or amended the Chandni Chowk beautification plan drawing so as to avoid the demolition of the temple, but it did nothing, he charged.

On November 21, 2020, the Delhi High Court again gave an opportunity to the AAP government to give its opinion on the temple's proposed demolition, but the latter 'avoided' intervention, forcing the NDMC to take action, the BJP leader claimed. PTI VIT/UZM RC