Wednesday, 14 October 2020 | TN RAGHUNATHA | Mumbai
To Guv’s taunt ‘have you turned secular’, CM retorts I don’t need certificate on Hindutva from you
An ugly war of words broke out between Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday over the re-opening of places of worship which were closed down in the wake of Covid 19-triggered lockdown imposed in the State in March this year.
A day ahead of the BJP’s proposed launch of a State-wide agitation for reopening of temples in the State, the Governor had on Monday written a letter — which smacked of political overtones — to the Chief Minister, questioning the latter’s Hindutva credentials and wondering if Uddhav was receiving any “divine premonition” to keep postponing the re-opening of the places of worship time and again or whether he suddenly turned “secular”.
Uddhav, who normally is not agitated over the criticism directed at him or his Government, hit back at Koshyari on Tuesday with vehemence, saying that he did not need any certificate for his being practitioner of Hindutva from the Governor and asking the latter if the latter meant “merely opening of temple means Hindutva and not opening means secular”.
In a related development, an understandably upset NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is one of the three constituents in the MVA Government in the State, shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, throwing his weight behind the Chief Minister, questioning the contents of the letter written by Koshyari to the Chief Minister and the “intemperate” language in it, saying that the Governor’s letter to the Chief Minister “invokes the connotation as if it is written to the leader of a political party”.
Koshyari — whose conduct had come in for severe flak in November last year after the hasty manner in which he had sworn in the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra apparently at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre — appeared to exceeded his brief as the Governor, if one were go by the contents of his letter to the Chief Minister.
In his letter, Koshyari wrote to Uddhav: “You have been a strong votary of Hindutva, you had publicly espoused your devotion for lord Rama by visiting Ayodhya after taking charge as CM, you had visited the Vitthal Rukmini Mandir, Pandharpur and performed the puja on Ashadhi Ekadishi…I wonder if you are receiving any divine premonition to keep postponing the re-opening of places of worship time and again or have you suddenly turned `secular’ yourselves (sic), the term you hated?”.
Taking offence to the Governor’s invocation of the words “Hindutva” and “secular”, Uddhav shot back in his reply: “True. I practise Hindutva. But, I do not require a certificate from you. Nor do I require such certificates from anyone. The act of according rousing welcome to a person who termed my State or my State capital as Pak-Occupied Kashmir (POK) does not fit into my concept of Hindutva”. Through this statement, Uddhav was apparently taking a potshot at Koshyari for meeting actress Kangana Ranaut after her controversial comment of comparing Mumbai to POK.
On Koshyari’s comment if Uddhav was receiving any “divine premonition” to keep postponing the reopening of the place of worship time and again and his sarcastic poser to him if he had suddenly turned secular, Uddhav was emphatic when he wrote: “Why this question has come to your mind. Do you feel that merely opening a temple means Hindutva and not opening means secular? As Governor you took oath of office and secrecy as per the provisions of the Constitution, which is based on secularism. Do you agree with that secularism?”
Uddhav went onto add: “You have asked me if I am receiving any divine premonition. You must have personal experience of divine premonition, I have absolutely no idea, I am not that big. I am studying what’s happening in other States and trying to implement what is better for Maharashtra’’.
Alluding to the mention made by the Governor that several delegations had met him during the last three months and demanded the re-opening of places in the State, Uddhav wrote: “You have mentioned that several delegations called on you during the last three months to demand re-opening of places of worship. But, all the three memorandums that you have attached along with your letter are submitted by the BJP and its supporters. My Government has taken serious note of your letter and decision will be taken as early as possible after taking due precautions”.
In response to the Governor’s references to his reported comment made on June 1 (when the latter embarked on “Mission Beginning Again”) that he had dumped the word “lockdown” and the statement that the Chief Minister’s statement raised much hope in the minds of the people, Uddhav wrote in the initial part of his letter: “I received your letter asking to reopen all places of worship. My Government is thinking about this. As much we take into account the sentiments and faith of the people, it is our primary responsibility to take care of the lives of the people”.
“While fighting a battle against Covid-19, it is as much wrong to impose lockdown all of a sudden, it is equally improper the lockdown at one go. At this juncture, my Government is in the midst of implementing “My family, my responsibility” drive in the State. Under the drive, we are issuing health advisories, creating awareness, conducting medical examinations and wherever necessary we conducting Covid-19 tests and our health machinery teams are visiting each and every house across. We are perhaps the first State in the country to be undertaking such door-to-door visits,” he said.
Meanwhile, in his letter to the Prime Minister seeking the latter’s intervention to the questionable contents of the letter written by the Governor to the Chief Minister, Pawar said that Koshyari could have “independent views and opinion on the issue” and that he also appreciated the prerogative of the Governor to convey his views to the Chief Minister. “However, I am shocked and surprised to see the letter of the Governor released to the media and the kind of language used in it,” the NCP chief said.
Taking serious exception to the “intemperate” language used invocation of the word “secular” by the Governor in his letter to the Chief Minister, Pawar said: “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, Hon Governor’s letter invokes the connotation as if it is written to the leader of a political party”.
Pawar said that in a democracy, he believes a free exchange of views should take place between the Governor and the Chief Minister. “However, the tone and tenor used must always be keeping with the stature of the constitutional post occupied by the individuals. Looking at the turn of events the Chief Minister was left with no option but to release the letter to Hon Governor to the press. I fully endorse the decision of the Hon Chief minister on the issue,” the NCP chief said.
Congress State president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat also hit out at the Governor saying that the language used by the latter in his letter to the Chief Minister was against the Constitution.
“Moreover, a similar situation is there even in Goa, then why the Governor has not issued such a letter to reopen the places of worship there,” Thorat said.
Meanwhile, as part of the State-wide agitation demanding the re-opening of the places of worships in the State, the BJP workers staged a protest in front of the famous Siddhi Vinayak temple at Prabhadevi in north-central Mumbai on Tuesday. The police detained several protesting BJP workers.
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