At a Cabinet meeting held in Ujjain on Tuesday, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ceded his usual seat, at the head of the table, to a garlanded portrait of the Mahakaal deity. “It is Mahakaal Maharaj’s government which is the king here… all his servants have come for a meeting on Mahakaal Maharaj’s soil,” he said.
At the start of the meeting, Chouhan said it was after almost 200 years that the government had assembled for a meeting in Ujjain, and offered prayers to the deity. He said the first decision of the meeting was that the Mahakaal Corridor would be renamed as Mahakaal Lok.
When contacted, the Chief Minister’s Office said the Mahakaal deity is traditionally believed to be the king of Ujjain, and the “No. 1 position” is always reserved for him. “As the Cabinet meeting took place in Ujjain, the CM pointed out that he could not sit at the head of the table because that place is always reserved for Lord Mahakaal,” said an official.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate the first phase of the Mahakaal Corridor on October 11. The project, involving expansion of the Mahakaaleshwar Temple corridor, is being developed on the banks of the Rudrasagar pond. The 900-metre corridor will have around 200 statues and murals related to Shiva, Shakti and other religious figures.
While the project cost was initially estimated at Rs 95 crore, it was later increased to Rs 856.09 crore and divided into two phases. The first phase totalled Rs 351.55 crore, while Rs 310.22 lakh has been approved for the second phase so far. The project is expected to be four times bigger than the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Varanasi.
Chouhan told the meeting that the project was first conceptualised in 2016, after which all stakeholders were consulted. Tenders for the first phase were invited in 2018. However, after losing the 2018 elections, work on the project was stalled, he said. The project was revived after he returned as chief minister in 2020.
Those affected by the project had to be relocated and rehabilitated at a cost of Rs 150 crore, he said. The first phase includes work on the Mahakaal Path, Mahakaal Vatika and development around the pond. Chouhan also announced the formation of a Mahakaal police band which will be roped in for festivals.
In the past, the government has also held Cabinet meetings in Indore, Khandwa (Hanuvanti) and Panchmarhi.
Meanwhile, Congress state media president, K K Mishra, said: “It is alright if they want to hold a Cabinet meeting in Ujjain. But while sitting with a portrait of the deity, they should also seek pardon for the scams running into several hundred crores in organising the mahakumbh in Ujjain.” The Congress also claimed that the project was initiated by its government.