LUCKNOW: Controversial BJP MLA Sangeet Singh Som was in the middle of a raging row on Monday when he called Taj Mahal a 'blot on Indian Culture' and questioned the need for the monument's place in the country's history.
Speaking at a public rally at Sisoli village in Meerut, Som said that the Taj Mahal was built by 'traitors' and the man who “had imprisoned his father and targeted Hindus.”
This is the second instance that a BJP leader kicked up a row by speaking against the Taj Mahal since the UP government excluded the monument from the list of ‘tourism attraction in the state’.
Earlier, culture minister Chaudhary Laxmi Narain had drawn all-round criticism by claiming that the monument was rightly kept out of the tourism brochure as it did not represent any faith or religion and UP government was working as per dharma niti.
"The lives and achievements of the "real great men" of the country like Maharana Pratap and Shivaji would be taught in schools and colleges. The BJP government would make sure that they are given their due place in history,” Som said.
In response, UP tourism minister Rita Bahuguna disowned Som's comment calling Taj Mahal an integral part of India's cultural heritage which will be further nurtured, propagated and promoted. "Tourism projects worth Rs 370 crore are proposed, under which schemes worth Rs 156 crore are meant for the Taj Mahal and its surrounding areas in Agra," she said.
"It must be his personal opinion. Taj is our heritage and it is a major tourist spot and we are committed to it uplift as the major tourist attraction of state," she added.
On the other hand, BSP leaders Umashankar Singh said, “The likes of Som can't deny Taj its place in Indian cultural heritage.”
However, there were trolls galore for Som on social media. While Jammu and Kashmir former CM Omer Abdullah exhorted the PM to stop delivering independent day speeches from Red Fort which may also be counted as a blot, BJP leader Nalin Kohli sought to distance the party from Som's views calling it his personal opinion.
Similarly, All India, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owasi asked if PM Modi and UP Cm Yogi Adityanath could stop the international tourists from visiting the monument of love?
However, as the day was coming to a close, Som modified his statement by claiming that he was never against the monumental beauty of Taj Mahal he was only referring to those who built it.
Som often hogs the limelight by issuing controversial statements. Being one of the accused in 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, which claimed 62 lives, Som was charged with making hate speeches and instigating rioters and arrested. Although the NSA had been slapped against him, it was withdrawn later. He claims himself to be a staunch anti-beef crusader and was booked for violating Section 144 at the time of Dadri lynching case in which a Muslim Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death on the suspicion of stealing and slaughtering a cow-calf in 2015. He has won the Sardhana seat twice.