BJP, AAP trade barbs over Delhi govt's free Ayodhya pilgrimage scheme for elderly

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New Delhi, Mar 11 (PTI) A day after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced free pilgrimage to the Ram temple in Ayodhya for Delhi's senior citizens, the BJP on Thursday accused him of using Lord Ram's name to mislead the residents of the national capital.

Hitting back, the ruling AAP said the BJP's opposition to the government scheme was 'beyond comprehension' and that the announcement was made in view of public sentiment.

Kejriwal announced the free pilgrimage scheme for the elderly on Wednesday while addressing the Delhi Assembly.

'I am a devotee of Lord Ram and Hanuman. We have been following 10 principles inspired by the concept of 'Ram Rajya' to serve the people of Delhi,' he said.

The AAP dispensation already has a 'Mukhyamantri Teerth Yatra Yojana' that allows senior citizens of Delhi to undertake a free pilgrimage. All expenses related to travel, food and accommodation are borne by the Delhi government.

Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said, 'The truth is that Kejriwal uses names of Shri Ram and Hanuman for political purposes to mislead the people of Delhi, which is wrong from both religious and social angles.' He said the chief minister's statement in the assembly calling himself a devotee of Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman was a 'laughable gimmick'.

Kapoor claimed Kejriwal had never been to Ayodhya for 'darshan'.

'Neither he nor his party has made any contribution to the construction of the Shri Ram temple at Ayodhya. For one month the VHP ran a fund collection drive but there was no information of any Aam Aadmi Party leader making any contribution,' he said.

He further alleged that the Kejriwal government got a Hanuman temple in Chandni Chowk demolished for the beautification of the area and was not regularising the one that has come up in its place.

AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said the BJP's opposition to the Delhi government's Ayodhya pilgrimage scheme was 'beyond comprehension'.

'We used to think that at least some people in the BJP would praise the pilgrimage scheme but instead they have got upset with this announcement,' Bhardwaj told reporters.

'Let us know if Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta has never taken his parents on a pilgrimage. The Delhi government will take care of their free pilgrimage,' he added.

Without naming anyone, Bhardwaj said a Congress spokesperson is describing the pilgrimage scheme as 'unrealistic dreams', while many people from his assembly constituency have benefited from it.

'All senior citizens of Delhi consider CM Arvind Kejriwal the eldest son of their family and they are very happy with this announcement,' he claimed.

Speaking in the assembly on Wednesday, Kejriwal said the Delhi government has taken many steps to honour the elderly, the most important being sending them on free pilgrimages.

His announcement about the pilgrimage scheme came a day after the AAP government presented a Rs 69,000-crore budget themed on 'patriotism' under which installation of 500 flag masts and programmes on the lives of freedom fighters are planned across the city. It also announced a 'deshbhakti curriculum'. PTI UZM DIV DIV