Lucknow: The Taj Mahal was "built by the blood and sweat of Indians", Yogi Adityanath said today, tackling a controversy over a leader of his party BJP describing the world-renowned monument as a "blot on Indian culture" and a "symbol of slavery... built by traitors".
As part of his damage control, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister will visit Agra on October 26, to survey the Taj and the Agra Fort, and "review schemes", according to his office.
"It does not matter who built it and for what reason; it was made by the sons of Bharat Mata. It was built by the blood and sweat of Indian labourers. I don't want to go into the depth of who built the Taj and why they made it," Yogi Adityanath told reporters at his home base Gorakhpur.
He said the monument was important to his government, especially "from the tourism perspective" and "it is our priority to provide facilities and safety to tourists there".
The optics of the visit is important after BJP's riot-accused legislator Sangeet Som's comments disparaging the 17th-century marble mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and suggested that India's history should be rewritten to erase Mughal emperors. "What history are we talking about? The man who built Taj Mahal imprisoned his father. He wanted to massacre Hindus. If this is history, then it is very unfortunate and we will change this history, I guarantee you," Mr Som told a public meeting in Meerut on Sunday.
The comments were not far different from the Chief Minister's own declaration in June that the Taj Mahal "does not reflect Indian culture".
Yogi Adityanath was accused by critics of neglecting the Mughal-built monument purposely, a view that was reinforced and loudly repeated when a UP tourism booklet listing popular spots in the state left out the Taj Mahal - a stunning omission, given that the monument draws millions of tourists from India and abroad.
State Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi later said, "Taj Mahal is already an established tourist spot, so we have focused more on the projects we are taking up within the next one year, especially Kumbh Mela."