BHUBANESWAR: The BJD government’s ‘temple politics’ is all set to get a big push with sources pitching a massive increase in allocations for the development and beautification of religious places in the full-fledged budget to be placed in the Assembly on July 2.
Allocation for temple development, which was only `150 crore in the budget for four months this year, is likely to touch `1,000 crores. Availability of funds for the initiative will be substantially more at the range of `3,000 crores as its implementation involves different departments including the Works, Law, Culture and Tourism.
The State government had launched the temple development scheme on February 27, 2019, with the `3,200 crore Shri Jagannath Heritage Corridor Project. In the 2020-21 budget, `50 crore was allocated for the scheme while no specific amount was earmarked for the initiative in the 2021-22 budget.
However, the government has spent a huge amount of funds on beautification and renovation of temples in the State during the last four years, excluding two years during which implementation of the scheme was stopped because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The issue has been raised by Congress in the Assembly several times without any response from the government. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is also lying defunct for the last two years as the leader of the Opposition and chairman Pradipta Kumar Naik is yet to fully recover from post-Covid complications. There is no agency which can scrutinise government spending. Meetings of the PAC are not being held as it is the chairman who convenes it.
Leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Narasingha Mishra alleged the government is taking advantage of the situation. “It should answer how such huge funds are being arranged and spent on temple development without budgetary allocation. The Speaker should have changed the PAC or the BJP should have elected leader of their legislature party or kept somebody in charge,” he said.
The Congress leader also targeted the government for spending only on temples. “What about churches and mosques? In a secular country, this should not have happened. Nobody is raising the issue directly and ruling BJD is deriving mileage out of this,” Mishra said. He said that Congress will raise the issue again in the ensuing monsoon session.