‘s bold challenge came while speaking to the media near Tirupur after visiting the Sukreeswar temple, Pon Manicavel declared that PM Modi’s accusations against the TN government were “100 per cent true.” He further criticised Chief Minister Stalin, stating that all of his responses on the issue were “white lies.” Manicavel did not mince words, going so far as to make a solemn promise: “If I tell a lie, I will die today itself.” He insisted that the Tamil Nadu government had been looting temple revenue for years and that temple lands had been encroached upon, echoing PM Modi’s claims.
Manicavel issued a direct challenge to Chief Minister Stalin, daring him to engage in a public debate on the matter. He questioned whether Stalin’s family or Dravidian ideology had a role in building temples in the state. Manicavel passionately argued that the government had been exploiting temple properties for personal gain. He concluded his challenge by stating that if proven wrong, he was willing to accept any punishment, even deportation from the state.
PM Modi’s Accusations
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had previously accused the Tamil Nadu Government of gross misappropriation of temple funds and encroachment on temple lands by the HR and CE department. He made these allegations during a rally in Nizamabad, Telangana, where he criticised the state government for its handling of temple assets.
In response to PM Modi’s allegations, Chief Minister MK Stalin vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Speaking at an event celebrating the 200th birth anniversary of revered saint Vallalar in Chennai, Stalin condemned the Prime Minister’s accusations. He questioned the need for PM Modi to comment on another state’s affairs and accused him of building a false narrative. Stalin also criticised those who sought to exploit spirituality for political gain.
Annamalai Supports Temple Freedom
Joining the debate, Tamil Nadu BJP Chief K Annamalai voiced support for freeing temples from the control of the HR&CE department. Annamalai accused Chief Minister Stalin of hastily dismissing PM Modi’s claims without reviewing the numerous cases filed against the HR and CE department in the Madras High Court.
Annamalai highlighted the mismanagement of temple lands, revealing that over the years, 2 lakh acres of temple land had been lost to encroachers. He accused the HR&CE department of diverting temple funds for purposes unrelated to temples, such as constructing offices and colleges. He also pointed out fraudulent appointments of executive officers in temples with high Hundi (donation box) contributions.
Annamalai raised concerns about the lack of external audits for the HR&CE department, noting that the department had never been subjected to one for decades. He questioned the government’s reluctance to undergo external audits and the absence of jewel audits to ascertain the temple assets. Annamalai also mentioned the government’s attempt to melt temple gold and demanded transparency regarding substandard gold.
Annamalai exposed the HR&CE department’s practice of charging minimal lending fees for properties leased from temples. He argued that only an external audit could reveal the extent of exploitation by the Tamil Nadu government over the years. He also accused the HR&CE department of wanting control over temples like the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple and Kalikambal Temple to funnel temple wealth.
Annamalai emphasized that the DMK government had failed to fulfill its promise of allocating 1000 crores for temple renovation and restoration, despite collecting significant funds through Hundis.
The temple property dispute in Tamil Nadu has sparked a heated debate involving key political figures and former law enforcement officials. PM Modi’s allegations of temple fund misappropriation and land encroachment have ignited a fierce exchange of words, with Chief Minister Stalin strongly denying the accusations. BJP Chief Annamalai has supported the call to free temples from government control, citing cases of mismanagement, lack of audits, and unfulfilled promises. The fate of temple properties and funds in Tamil Nadu remains a contentious issue that continues to capture public attention.