Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, a cabinet minister in Uttar Pradesh, has said that the Taj Mahal was "rightly kept out" of the tourism booklet recently released the Yogi Adityanath government, and the 17th century monument "should instead be replaced with the Guru Gorakhnath peeth."
Speaking on the controversial omission, Chaudhary said that the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh was "rashtravadi (nationalist)" and runs on "dharm niti (religious policy)."
The Times of India reported today that Chaudhary, who is in charge of culture, religious affairs and minority welfare, shared his views on the Taj Mahal at an event organized by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Hathras.
"Taj Mahal is not the symbol of any religion and (it is) nobody's. It does not represent any religion," he said. "On the other hand, Gorakhnath peeth represents people's faith."
TOI further reported that when it was pointed out that the Taj Mahal was a UNESCO heritage site, Chaudhary said, "Those who included the monument in that list must have been of a similar taste (mizaz) as those who built it."
In September, the UP government released a booklet entitled "Uttar Pradesh Tourism: Its High Potential," which did not mention the world famous monument.
In the face of intense criticism, the UP government said that the booklet was not brochure of all the tourist attractions in UP, but a compilation of the UP government's ongoing and future projects in the tourism sector.
"The government, with the help of the World Bank has proposed projects worth Rs 370 crore, of which projects worth Rs 156 crore are meant for development of the Taj Mahal and Taj Mahal region," the UP Information Department said in a press release.
Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi, a former Congress Party leader who joined the BJP ahead of the Assembly election, said, "How can anyone in the tourism sector ignore the Taj Mahal, one of the big tourist attractions in the country?"
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, however, is not a fan of the 17th century marble mausoleum made by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, known the world over as the "monument of love."
In June, Adityanath said that the Taj Mahal did not reflect Indian culture. "Foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets which did not reflect Indian culture," he said.
In August, the Modi government at the Centre approved the Adityanath government's proposal to rename the Mughalsarai railway station in Uttar Pradesh after the Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader Pandit Deendayal Upadhayay, who also served the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP.
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