The war of words between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) triggered by the demolition of a temple in Chandni Chowk intensified on Tuesday with both parties blaming each other for the razing of the religious structure.

The AAP criticised the BJP for “falsely alleging” that the Arvind Kejriwal-led government in Delhi was responsible for demolition of the temple even as BJP repeated its charge that the chief minister could have intervened and tweaked the design of the Chandni Chowk redevelopment project to save the temple.

Addressing a press conference, AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said it was the BJP-ruled municipal corporation which had told the court that it was going to demolish the temple. He shared a copy of an affidavit filed by the North MCD in the high court to support the claim.

“The affidavit shows that the north MCD conveyed to the court that the demolition would take place on December 20. The affidavit was signed by the deputy commissioner North MCD, Satnam Singh. The BJP does not have the required police force to stop illegal constructions, but they deploy thousands of police personnel at night to demolish a temple,” Bhardwaj said.

The BJP, however, blamed the Delhi government for temple’s demolition. “In all these 15 months, the Kejriwal government could have put this matter before the religious committee of the Delhi assembly to review the matter and provide relief to the affected parties. The Delhi government could also have got the Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan amended. But they did nothing,” said Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor.

The AAP said the BJP indirectly took the help of an NGO, Manushi Sangathan, to file a writ petition in the court for demolition of the temple. Bhardwaj alleged that the people who lead the NGO are close to a senior BJP leader.

Sanjay Bhargava, member of the NGO and president of Chandni Chowk Sarva Vyapar Mandal (CCSYM), rejected AAP’s allegations as “a bunch of lies”.

“I am not linked to any political party. This project has been monitored by the Delhi high court since 2007 when AAP was not even born. I am the president of CCSYM and we have been trying to redevelop Chandni Chowk since 2000. I request Bhardwaj to withdraw his comments as it amounts to contempt of court orders,” Bhargava said.

Bhargava added,“There were five religious structures, three were removed in 2016. This temple was one of the two left. In fact, Delhi government’s counsel Rahul Mehra was present when the Delhi high court passed its order,” he said.

Continuing his attack on the BJP, Bhardwaj said, “We would like to tell the BJP that your animosity is with the AAP. Please do not take your revenge on Lord Hanuman. If you will upset Hanuman, it will affect Lord Ram because Ram loves Hanuman, and not the BJP. Also, BJP will not be able to form a government in Delhi by doing this,” Bhardwaj said.

BJP’s Kapoor said the Kejriwal government has little concern or respect for Hindu temples, citing an attack on a temple in old Delhi.

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