Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has removed Ompal Nehra from the post of advisor on the state's Entertainment Tax Department over his comments that Muslims should shift their focus from building mosques and instead build temples, ostensibly to Ram and Krishna.
At an event on Thursday evening, Nehra reportedly said: "Where can a Ram temple be built if not in Ayodhya? Muslims should help build a Ram temple in Ayodhya and a Krishna temple in Mathura, and give up their claim to mosques there. In fact, I would say Muslims should join Kar Seva for the Ram temple."
Nehra's remarks came ostensibly after the issue of stones being brought to Ayodhya for the construction of a Ram temple led to protests by MPs inside the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
The issue apparently gave the Opposition parties more ammunition to stall the proceedings and not let the much-awaited reform legislation Goods and Service Tax Bill in the Upper House of Parliament, where the BJP-led NDA government does not have the same kind of majority it enjoys in the Lok Sabha that allows it to push through bills easily in the Lower House.
It was this deadlock in Parliament Nehra later said he was talking about when he made the controversial statement on Thursday. The Samajwadi Party leader also said he had meant to convey that with the Ram Temple issue being used by the likes of Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh to stymie Parliament, he wanted it settled in such a peaceful manner that it could not be used for political gains.
Nehra's indication here could be towards the 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, for which all parties are gearing up. Incidentally, the bringing of stones to Ayodhya to construct a Ram Temple is being seen as a move by the BJP's allies to make a significant political push in the state.