Hours after Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Sangeet Som said the Taj Mahal was built by traitors and is a “blot on Indian culture”, leaders across party lines criticised the remark.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on Twitter: “No more Red Fort speeches on 15th August? The PM will address the nation from Nehru Stadium...”

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said: “The Red Fort was built by the same group of traitors. Will PM Narendra Modi stop hoisting the flag from there? Can Modi and Yogi ask domestic, foreign tourists to not visit the Taj?”

Uttar Pradesh Tourism Minister Reeta Bahuguna Joshi tried to do damage control and said the Taj Mahal was “part of our cultural heritage”, according to CNN-News18. “It might be his individual opinion,” she said. “Chief Minister Adityanath and I call it part of our cultural heritage. It is heritage and a major tourist spot. We are committed to the upliftment of Agra and the Taj.”

BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao, however, defended Som. “There have been attempts to distort Indian history,” he said. “It is a symbol of barbarism, and it is a monument.”

Earlier in October, the Uttar Pradesh government was criticised for leaving out the 17th-century monument from the state’s official tourism booklet.