The massive rally by the Maratha Kranti Morcha, held in Mumbai on Wednesday, called for celebrating Shiv Jayanti — the birth anniversary of Shivaji Maharaj — on February 19, the date decided by an expert committee set up by the then Maharashtra government in 2000. The call by the Maratha community has put the Shiv Sena in the dock, as the party has been celebrating Shiv Jayanti in March or April, as per the Hindu calendar.
The call at the rally, articulated by a young speaker, drew a huge round of applause from the lakhs of participants who had gathered from across Maharashtra. This indicates that the Maratha community, which reveres Shivaji, is in favour of sticking to the official date of his birth anniversary.
The Sena, on the other hand, has always maintained that it has adhered to celebrations of Shivaji Jayanti as per the Hindu calendar. Maratha leaders said the “unnecessary controversy” over the celebration of Shiv Jayanti twice a year should now end as it “didn’t suit the reputation of the warrior king”.
“Chhatrapati Shivaji is worshiped by the Maratha community, while different sections of society hold him in high esteem. To celebrate such a leader’s birth anniversary on two different days and create unnecessary controversy is not an appropriate way to show respect to the king,” said the Maratha leaders.
Shantaram Kunjir, one of the leaders of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, said, “The Maratha community has always celebrated February 19 as Shiv Jayanti. Our stand has always been in favour of celebrating Chhatrapati Shivaji’s birth anniversary on one particular day. It is up to the Shiv Sena to take a call…”.
Saying the Maratha community formed 35 per cent of the population of Maharashtra, Kunjir said, “They should heed our voice…”. Though Shiv Sena leaders said they were in favour of celebrating Shiv Jayanti on one particular day, they were quick to add that the final call would be taken by party chief Uddhav Thackeray. “For that to happen, all stakeholders should sit together, discuss the issue and arrive at an appropriate date. We need to find out what has gone wrong while deciding a particular date…,” said senior Sena leader and party spokesperson Sanjay Raut.
Another Sena leader said it would be difficult for the party to backtrack on the issue as it has always steadfastly stuck to its proclaimed stand. “Sena is not known to backtrack once it takes a stand on a particular issue. Uddhav Thackeray will now have to decide, since the Maratha community is a strong supporter of the party,” said a leader.
Saying the issue needs to be discussed, Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said, “I am not aware of the call given by the Maratha rally to celebrate Shiv Jayanti on February 19 as I was in the state legislature. Let the Maratha leaders come forward with the proposal, we will discuss the issue…”. Another Sena leader, Anil Desai, said, “The Sena has been celebrating Shiv Jayanti as per the Hindu calendar…I can’t comment much on the issue.”
In 2015, after the BJP-Sena government came to power, Sena’s plea to consider March 8 as the official date to celebrate Shiv Jayanti was not accepted by the state government. To avoid any kind of controversy, the BJP-led government has been celebrating the Maratha king’s birth anniversary on February 19, which had been endorsed by the Congress-NCP regime.
In the last 17 years, Sena has never participated in government functions held to mark Shiv Jayanti on February 19. Instead, it has organised grand celebrations on Shiv Jayanti, on dates decided as per the Hindu calendar.