In what many see as damage control by the BJP after a string of controversial remarks by its leaders about the Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday visited the monument, broom in hand, and took part in a mega cleanliness drive to promote Swachh Bharat Mission.
Adityanath’s visit to the 17th century monument is the first by a BJP CM of the state. When the media asked him about his experience at the Taj, where he spent about 30 minutes, the chief minister didn’t say a word but smiled and showed a ‘thumbs up’ sign amid loud chants of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ by his supporters and party workers.
Later, addressing the media at Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Adityanath was candid in admitting that the cleanliness drive was an attempt to show the “clean intentions” of his government to safeguard the monument and promote tourism. “This should be enough to silence our critics,” he said.
At another public meeting at GIC ground, the CM said, “Only casteist forces have a problem with me visiting Agra. People with a divisive agenda are trying to divert the state from the path of development by giving a communal turn to every issue.” He did not name anyone while mentioning these “divisive” forces.
“Instead of going into who built the Taj Mahal, we should remember that Indian labourers gave their blood and sweat for its construction. So it is the duty of our government to protect and preserve it,” Adityanath said.
However, Adityanath warned that tourists would visit the city only if assured of their safety. “Every day nearly 50,000 tourists come to Agra. If we can provide them adequate security, this number will rise to 2.5-3 lakh,” he said. His remarks assume significance as a Swiss couple visiting Agra were assaulted and injured in Fatehpur Sikri on October 22.
Adityanath also took the opportunity to announce a spate of schemes and initiatives for Agra, including one to tackle water scarcity-related issues. “We are finishing up projects left pending by the previous government. We will end the water crisis in Agra,” he said adding that Rs 65 crore has been approved for the construction and development of an airport in Agra.