Samajwadi Party leader Swami Prasad Maurya on Sunday said that if the Bharatiya Janata Party looks for a temple in every mosque then people would soon start searching for a Buddhist monastery in every temple.

Maurya’s comments comes on the heels of the Allahabad High Court order on July 27 that stayed the scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises in Varanasi till August 3. The Hindu plaintiffs in the case have sought the right to hold prayers inside the mosque compound claiming that an image of the Hindu deity Shringar Gauri exists at the mosque.

On July 27, Maurya had said that if the survey is taking place inside the mosque, it should also be surveyed what was before the Hindu temple, reported The Hindu. “I believe most of the present Hindu temples were Buddhist religious places like temples, monasteries or learning centres,” the politician said. “They [Hindu temples] have been constructed after demolishing them.”

On Sunday, he reiterated his comments and said that there is evidence to show that Badrinath and Kedarnath temples in Uttarakhand were Buddhist monasteries between the seventh century and the eighth century. However, it was Hindu scholar Shankaracharya who converted them into Hindu temples, Maurya claimed.

He also claimed that the Jagannath temple in Puri, the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala and the Vithoba temple in Pandharpur were Buddhist monasteries that were demolished to set up Hindu religious shrines.

The former Uttar Pradesh minister said that his comments had attracted criticism from Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Pushkar Singh Dhami who said that it had hurt Hindu sentiments. “If your faith is important to you then faiths are also important to those who follow them,” Maurya said. “If you are worried about your religion, you should also be considerate of others religions.”

Maurya said that his intention is not to hurt any person’s religious feelings but to tell them not to look for temples in mosques. He said that there might not be enough evidence to support the claims of mosques built on existing temples, but there is enough evidence to show that temples were built on Buddhist monasteries.

He said that people should be wary of raking up such issues to maintain communal harmony and respect all religions.

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Sunday said that Maurya’s political comments can give rise to new controversies.

“When Maurya was a minister in the BJP government for a long time, why did he not put such pressure on the party and the government in this regard,” she said in a tweet. “And now creating such a religious controversy at the time of elections is his and Samajwadi Party’s disgusting politics. Buddhist and Muslim societies are not going to be misled by them.”

Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary said that Maurya’s comments were insulting the Hindu religion and he should apologise for it.

He said the statement has hurt the feelings of crores of Hindus and created hatred in the society. “And, Akhilesh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party chief, should give his opinion on this subject and clarify if the Samajwadi Party agrees with it,” Chaudhary tweeted.