Agra: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday visited the Taj Mahal, days after BJP leaders and ministers made provocative statements against the 17th-century Mughal-era monument.
Accompanied by scores of security personnel, officials and jostling crowds of supporters, he walked down the path leading to the famed monument to love along with state Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
Adityanath, the first BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh to visit the Taj Mahal, entered from the western gate where he swept the road along with senior leaders.
Donning a mask, wearing yellow gloves and wielding a broom, Adityanath was accompanied by about 500 BJP members, including MLAs from western Uttar Pradesh, as he swept a parking area, in an apparent bid to promote the Swachh Bharat mission.
Over 14,000 policemen were deployed across the city for the security of Adityanath, who arrived here early this morning.
The visit is seen by many as a damage control exercise after a series of controversies erupted, beginning with a UP tourism department booklet not mentioning the white marble monument in its list of development projects in the state.
Subsequently, BJP MLA Sangeet Som called Taj Mahal a "blot on Indian history" and BJP MP Vinay Katiyar said it was originally a Shiva temple.
Even on Thursday, as Yogi was visiting the Taj Mahal, BJP MLA Jagan Prasad Garg maintained that the monument was built after destroying a Shiva Temple. The Mughals first demolished the temple and then built the Taj Mahal, the Agra North lawmaker told reporters.
However, addressing a rally in Gorakhpur recently, Adityanath called Taj Mahal the "pride of India" and referred to it as a "world class monument".
This was a significant departure from his remarks at a rally in Bihar last year, when he had said the Taj does not represent Indian culture and that visiting foreign dignitaries should be presented with the Gita rather than replicas of Taj Mahal.
The chief minister has already declared that the state government will spend Rs 370 crore on development plans aimed at promoting tourism in the city of Taj.
Along with the visit to the Taj Mahal, built by Shahjahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, Adityanath will inaugurate various development projects in Agra, according to an official spokesperson.
"During his tour of Agra.., the chief minister will be visiting all the places inside Taj Mahal," principal secretary, tourism, Awanish Awasthi said yesterday.
The last time a UP chief minister visited the Taj was Akhilesh Yadav, more than two years ago.
Adityanath, who landed in the city s Kheria Airport, earlier went to Nangla Paima village and visited a rubber check dam. He also visited Kachhpura village.