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BJP changes its stand on Rath Yatra cancellation, advises Odisha govt to find ways to conduct devotee-less Rath Yatra in Puri

BJP has now taken an u-turn on the issue and has advised the state government to holding a "devotee-less" festival, instead of cancelling as suggested by Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb.

Days after welcoming the Supreme Court order on the cancellation of annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath at Puri, the BJP has now taken an u-turn on Saturday after it asked the Naveen Patnaik-led Odisha government to look for ways to conduct the Rath Yatra without much crowd on June 23.

Speaking to a local media, state BJP president Samir Mohanty appealed to the state government to take steps according to Puri’s titular king Dibyasingha Deb’s proposal for the conduct of Rath Yatra in Puri. He also added that the Odisha government should also discuss the matter with Puri Shankaracharya.

The Supreme court on Thursday had stayed the Rath Yatra, which was to begin on June 23. The apex court had also stopped all activities related to the festival, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Soon after the judgement, opposition parties in the state including BJP, SP and Congress had said everybody has to abide by the Supreme Court order on the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath. In a statement, the BJP had said that everybody has to abide by the Supreme Court order on Rath Yatra even if it is painful.

“We have to accept the reality that the pandemic is at its high during the month,” BJP state president Samir Mohanty had said.

However, BJP has now taken an u-turn on the issue and has advised the state government to hold a “devotee-less” festival, instead of cancelling as suggested by Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb.

Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb who is the titular king of Puri and considered the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati and other associated with the Shree Jagannath Temple had urged the state government to hold the festival without the presence of devotees.

Addition to that, they had asked the Naveen Patnaik-led government to bring an ordinance to overrule the Supreme Court order, as was done by the government in the case with the practice of Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport, in Tamil Nadu.

Opposition parties, temple trust attack Odisha government

Meanwhile, the opposition political parties in the state have attacked the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government for its failure to convince the Supreme Court to conduct the annual event without any crowd.

Dibyasingha Deb, who is also the chairperson of the Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee, said that the Naveen Patnaik-led state government did not properly apprise the Supreme Court of plans to hold a crowd-less festival this year.

The committee had earlier recommended to the state government that a devotee-less Ratha Yatra was possible as was done during the Lord’s ‘Snan Purnima’ (bathing rituals) on June 5. Deb further said the devotees can witness the festival through television as it has been done during the Snan Purnima.

Instead of opposing the petition seeking cancellation of the Ratha Yatra, the state government’s counsel seemed to have supported it which led to the passing of an order to stay the festival, he alleged.

Deb said the managing committee and the Chhattisha Nijog have urged the state government to file another application in the Supreme Court for altering its June 18 order to allow them to conduct the festival in a restricted way.

SC stays annual Puri Rath Yatra

The annual Jagannath Rath Yatra which was slated to take place in Odisha on June 23 was stalled by the Supreme Court this year citing the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

The PIL was filed on June 15 by Bhubaneswar-based NGO ‘Odisha Vikas Parishad’ stating argued that holding the annual chariot festival, which attracts almost 10 lakh people from across the country and abroad would be an open invitation to infect lakhs of devotees given the spiralling number of coronavirus patients in India, including Odisha.

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