Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath speaks at the public meeting in Darbhanga on Thursday. (PTI)
Darbhanga, June 15: The Taj Mahal may be synonymous with India in the eyes of the world, but not to Yogi Adityanath.
"Foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets which did not reflect Indian culture," the Uttar Pradesh chief minister said at a public meeting today at the Raj Maidan in Darbhanga, a historic ground that used to be the centre of sporting activities since the 16th century under the Maithil rulers.
Now (read as meaning under the Narendra Modi government), Adityanath pointed out, foreign dignitaries are gifted copies of the Bhagvad Gita and the Ramayan when they come to India.
Historians were aghast at the UP chief minister's description of the Taj.
"The period from the year 1206 to 1760 is known as medieval and pre-modern history," said Patna University history teacher Daisy Narayan. "But some people, especially of a particular political stripe, consider this period as the 'Islamic era' of Indian history. These people, in doing so, are trying to rewrite history and distort facts. It is very shocking that the Taj Mahal, which is our national heritage monument, is being claimed as not as part of our culture."
The Bihar BJP had organised today's event as part of a series of programmes across the state to showcase achievements in the three years of the Narendra Modi government.
There was a palpable buzz about Adityanath's visit because of two reasons.
One, this was the hardline Hindutva leader's first trip to Bihar after taking over as Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
Second, chief minister Nitish Kumar had yesterday visited Darbhanga and dared Adityanath - without naming him - to make Uttar Pradesh a dry state like Bihar and declare 50 per cent reservation for women.
After starting his speech with chants such as "Jai Shri Ram" and " gau mata ki jai", the Uttar Pradesh chief minister highlighted what he had done in his state - such as shutting unauthorised slaughter houses and setting up anti-Romeo squads, which he said aimed to establish rule of law and security of women.
Then he dared Nitish to clear his stand on the issue of instant triple talaq.
"I know he will not break his silence on this issue, but he should as it concerns women. Several Muslim women come to meet me daily, narrating their woes that stem from triple talaq."
He added: "But we don't do politics of caste or religion."
An early morning rain had left the ground muddy, and many among the roughly 20,000-strong crowd were struggling to find a dry spot to stand as the scorching sun beat down on them.
Adityanath attributed it to the Almighty.
"Even the nature God is with us," he said. "The rain washed off all the impure things this spot might have had before this meeting."
Much of Adityanath's speech had themes meant to connect with his core support base.
He invoked Lord Ram - who the faithful believe was born in Ayodhya in modern-day Uttar Pradesh -and Sita - believed to be from Sitamarhi in Bihar - to underline the "special relation" between the two states. He also announced that Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari had approved a special road project connecting Ayodhya with Sitamarhi.
Before Adityanath began his speech, Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai told the crowd that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister had "adopted" Bihar.
Adityanath explained that he had "chosen" to work in Bihar and would not rest till the lotus - the BJP's poll symbol - blooms in the Bihar Assembly.
He called the alliance of Nitish and RJD chief Lalu Prasad as "unnatural" and declared that Nitish had started "keeping bad company".
Adityanath also claimed no Prime Minister before Narendra Modi had thought about the poor.
Pakistan also figured in his speech. Urging people to take part in large numbers in the International Yoga Day celebration on June 21, he said Pakistan was not observing the day though 200 countries were doing so. Pakistan would have to follow yoga for its survival, he said.