As temples reopened for devotees in Kerala on Tuesday after over 75 days, a Union minister and a state minister sparred over the decision with the former dubbing it as 'hasty'.
While Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan questioned 'the haste shown' in reopening the temples, state Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said the decision was only in line with the Centre's guidelines in allowing places of worship to permit entry of devotees.
Unveiling graded exit plan from the COVID-19 lockdown 'Unlock 1.0', the central government has earlier allowed reopening of places of worship for devotees, malls and restaurants from Monday onwards across the country after they remained out of bounds since March 25.
Muraleedharan, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader from Kerala, in a Facebook post on Monday hit out at the Left front government saying, 'Your government is unable to even maintain social distancing in the state.'
'As the COVID-19 cases are increasing in the state, are you trying to put the blame on temples by opening them? We urge the government to withdraw the decision to open the temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board,' he said.
The Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra had also tweeted on Monday evening that neither devotees nor the temple committees favoured throwing open the shrines for public darshan.
'The Kerala government's decision to reopen temples despite opposition from devotees smell foul. Neither the devotees nor the temple committees demanded the opening of temples. What is the haste? Is this a deliberate attempt by the atheist @vijayanpinarayi (sic) Govt to denigrate devotees? Govt must heed to the voice of devotees and withdraw its decision,' he said in tweets.
Slamming Muraleedharan, Surendran on Tuesday said the state government had not shown any undue haste with regard to the re-opening of temples and that he sympathises with the central minister.
The central minister should ask his ministerial colleagues about the decision taken in the cabinet meeting on opening of places of worship.
'I feel sad for him (Muraleedharan). The decision on opening of places of worship was taken by the central cabinet in a meeting chaired by our honourable Prime Minister. The state government never showed any kind of haste in opening the religious places.'
The decision was not taken by the state in a jiffy, he said but after holding discussions with various religious heads and community leaders .
'The decision of the state was taken after discussing with various religious and community leaders. We understand that a minister of state can't take part in the cabinet meeting.
'But, at least he should ask other ministers on the Centre's decision before attacking the state,' Surendran said.
Joining issue, BJP state president K Surendran alleged that while the government consulted the who-is-who of other religions, it had a taken 'a unilateral' decision in the case of temples.
No spiritual leader or scholars who matter were consulted on the issue, Surendran told media in Kozhikode.
The decision to reopen the temples was only aimed at the wealth of the shrines under the control of the Devaswams.
The state government did not bother to spend a penny for hundreds of temples which had nothing in their kitty to survive during the past two months, he alleged.
Tens of thousands of staff of these temples were 'neglected' by the government without giving any financial aid for survival.
The BJP and Hindu Akiya Vedi had come out on Monday against the state's decision to open places of worship.
Various temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) opened on Tuesday along with some churches and mosques in parts of the state.
While the famed Lord Krishna temple at Guruvayoor opened its doors by following the various norms laid down by the government, the Sree Padmanabha Swamy and Attukkal temples in the state capital were among those which remained shut.