BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh government waived on Wednesday the road tax on a Rs 1.30-crore luxury bus owned by Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati, a move derided by social activists and the opposition AAP as religious bias.
Sources said a state cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan decided on the tax waiver. Parliamentary affairs and health minister Narottam Mishra briefed reporters about the cabinet’s decision but refused to disclose the exempted tax amount, which is estimated to be about Rs 11 lakh.
The move triggered a controversy. AAP leader Alok Agrawal asking why the Shankracharya, who heads of two of the four Hindu cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankara in the 8th century, needed a tax exemption when he could own a costly bus.
The original price of the bus was about Rs 15 lakh but modifications such as a fitting in a washroom, a lift and a bed pushed the cost to about Rs 1.30 crore.
Sources said Shankaracharya is considered close to Congress but the Simhastha kumbh mela this year played a role in changing the Chouhan government’s mind.
The Congress understandably didn’t oppose the decision.