Why Odisha’s Lingaraj Temple Ordinance Has Become Bone of Contention Between BJD and Centre

The political faceoff in Odisha seems to have become fierce with the Biju Janata Dal-led government blaming the Centre for opposing the state ordinance that aims to make peripheral changes to the Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneshwar in view of devotees’ interest. The Congress, too, has blamed the Centre for opposing the ordinance while the BJP maintains that the development activities should be in accordance with the law.

So, what is the state government ordinance that the Centre is opposing?

The Odisha government has proposed in the ordinance to bring the 11th Century Lingaraj Temple and eight other shrines under the control of a 15-member committee with a Hindu IAS officer as the administration similar to the Jagannath Temple.

The Union home ministry, in a letter to Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra, has sought clarification on the ordinance to cover 12 centrally-protected monuments, including the Lingaraj Temple and three tanks. The Centre is of the opinion that it is outside the “legislative competence” of the state legislature and could lead to conflict with the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act). The Centre also said the AMASR Act prohibits new construction within 100 metres of a protected monument. At present, the Lingaraj Temple is governed by the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowment Act, 1951.

The ruling BJD has raised questions on the motive of BJP-led Central government. In issuing the letter, the Naveen Patnaik-led state government said it has taken up the developmental work in view of devotees’ interest.

Ekamra MLA and minister Ashok Chandra Panda has justified the state government’s move, and asked if developmental work can be taken up in Kashi Vishwanath, Somanath and Kedarnath temple, then why not the Lingaraj temple? The state government has already clarified on the ordinance to the Centre, and if need be, it would “clarify once again”, Panda said.

Meanwhile, Congress MLA Suresh Kumar Rautray said the Union government should discuss the issue and solve it “as soon as possible” as the work should not hamper the interest of devotees.

In response, BJP Odisha president Samir Mohanty said his party was not against development, but the law of the land should not be flouted. “The state government should take up all works within the provisions of the Constitution,” Mohanty said.

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