The state cabinet approved the proposal for takeover of the Raghunathji temple at its meeting here yesterday, officials said.
President of Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) and former BJP leader, Maheshwar Singh who is descendant of ruling family is chief Kardar (caretaker) of Raghunathji temple.
Raghunathji is the presiding deity of about 300 local devatas (gods) of the region and all festivities revolve around him during the famous international Dussehra festival.
The decision has come at a time when speculations are rife about merger of HLP with BJP or AAP and the party’s state executive had authorised Maheshwar to take a final call on the issue.
The temple is located in Sultanpur palace of the erstwhile ruling family and Singh claims that Raghunathji is deity of the family.
Maheshwar said he was yet to be informed about it (cabinet’s decision) and “necessary legal action would be taken if the government initiates the process of taking control of the temple under the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act 1984”.
Interestingly, younger brother of Maheshwar, Karan Singh is a Cabinet minister in the Virbhadra Singh ministry which took the decision.
Maheshwar, who was three-time Lok Sabha MP from Mandi Parliamentary constituency, a former Rajya Sabha member and three times MLA from Kullu, had been the president of state BJP.
He had quit the party ahead of Assembly elections in 2012 and floated the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) along with several other BJP dissidents.
The Raghunathji temple was in the news following theft of the idol of Raghunathji along with other artefacts in December 2014, which were later recovered.
Theft had again highlighted the demand for beefing up security at the temple and the chief minister had said that it was a private temple and not under the control of the government.