Mumbai: Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and chief minister Uddhav Thackeray have got into an acrimonious exchange over the opening of temples in the state.
In a two-page letter, written with a clear sarcastic overtone, Koshyari had asked Thackeray if he had turned “secular” since he had denied permission to reopen the temples in the state. In response, Thackeray retorted that he did not need a “Hindutva certificate” from anyone.
Maharashtra has been one of the worst affected states in India in the pandemic. With no let up in COVID-19 cases in the state, Thackeray had decided to keep temples shut, citing that they lead to large gatherings which pose a risk of spreading the disease.
Koshyari’s letter is in line with BJP’s, which has, from time to time, demanded that temples be reopened.
“You have been a strong votary of Hindutva. You had publicly espoused your devotion for Lord Rama by visiting Ayodhya after taking charge as Chief Minister. You had visited the Vitthal Rukmini Mandir in Pandharpur and performed the puja on Ashadhi Ekadashi,” Koshyari had written in his letter.
He had attempted a further jibe with a question on whether Thackeray had received a “divine premonition” which has made him constantly postpone the reopening of places of worship. “Have you turned ‘secular’ yourself…a term you hated?” he had asked in the letter.
That Thackeray did not take this letter lightly became apparent in his response on Tuesday, October 13. The chief minister said, “You ask if I am getting divine premonitions? Maybe you get them, I am not so big,” he wrote back in Marathi.
The governor had also accused the CM of locking up “gods and goddesses” during the lockdown. It is “ironical” that bars, restaurants, and beaches were allowed to open, and “our gods and goddesses have been condemned to stay in the lockdown”, Koshyari had written in his letter.
Last month, amid the controversy around actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, Koshyari had chosen to meet actor Kangana Ranaut at the governor’s residence in South Mumbai. Ranaut, who had been openly attacking the Maharashtra government, and Mumbai police in particular had claimed that she felt “insecure” in the city and that Mumbai resembled PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir).
The governor’s decision to meet Ranaut despite her constant attack on the state government had not gone well with the Shiv Sena and in his response today, Thackeray, without taking Ranaut’s name said, “Inviting people who call Mumbai PoK with smiles does not fall into my definition of Hindutva”.
Following Koshyari’s letter, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar also sent out a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi slamming the governor’s approach towards the issue. “I am shocked and surprised to know that the letter of the Governor was released to the media and also the kind of language used in the letter which does not behove well for a person who holds a constitutional position,” Pawar wrote to the prime minister.
He further added, “I am sure you [PM Modi] too would have noticed the intemperate language that has been used. In the very Preamble of our Constitution the word ‘secular’ is added that equates and shields all religions and hence the Chair of the Chief Minister must uphold such tenets of the Constitution. Unfortunately Honourable Governor’s letter to the Chief Minister invokes the connotation as if written to the leader of a political party,” Pawar retorted in his letter posted on his social media handle.
It was brought to my notice through the media, a letter written by the Hon. Governor of Maharashtra to the @CMOMaharashtra
In this letter the Hon. Governor has sought the intervention of the Chief Minister to open up religious places for the public. pic.twitter.com/1he2VOatx3
— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) October 13, 2020
This is the second letter by Pawar against Koshyari to the prime minister. Pawar and Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut had in April written to Modi, complaining about Koshyari’s “interference” in the state’s administrative work.
Koshyari and the present tri-party government of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, has been at loggerheads right since the government was formed in the state. Koshyari is a staunch RSS supporter, a former BJP functionary and has openly sided with the BJP on more than one occasion.
In November last year, the governor had participated in a covert swearing-in ceremony of BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis as the state’s CM and NCP leader Ajit Pawar as the deputy CM in the early hours of the day. Within three days, however, the duo had to resign after failing to garner enough MLAs to form a government.
Koshyari has remained critical of the Sena-led government and during the COVID-19 crisis in the state has openly criticised its handling of the problems.