October 14, 2020 5:14:16 am
As the war of words between the Maharashtra chief minister and the Governor escalated over the reopening of temples in the state, NCP president Sharad Pawar’s strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, objecting to the language used by Bhagat Singh Koshyari, set the tone for ruling allies NCP and Congress to close ranks in support of Uddhav Thackeray.
In an indication that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government had formulated a joint response strategy over this latest misgiving with the Governor, state Congress president and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat questioned the “language used” in Koshyari’s letter to the CM.
In his letter to the PM, while pointing to the word secular in the Preamble of the Constitution, Pawar said the chief minister must uphold such tenets. “Unfortunately, the Governor’s letter to the chief minister invokes the connotation as if written to the leader of a political party,” he added.
“I firmly believe that in a democracy, free exchange of views between the Governor and the CM must take place. However, the tone and tenor used must always be in keeping with the stature of the constitutional post occupied by the individuals,” Pawar said.
He also expressed “surprise” as to how the Governor’s letter had come to be released to the media. “Look at the turn of events, the chief minister was left with no option but to release his reply to the Governor in the media. I have not discussed the matter either with the Governor or the chief minister. But I felt I must share my pain with you and the public at the erosion of standards of conduct of the high constitutional office of the Governor,” he wrote to the PM.
Citing huge gathering of devotees even on weekdays at shrines like Shree Saibaba temple (Shirdi), Siddhivinayak Temple (Dadar) and Vitthal temple (Pandharpur), Pawar told the PM that the MVA coalition had decided to “stagger the decision regarding opening of place of worship” in the state and highlighted the government’s ‘My Family My Responsibility’ campaign to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Thorat, meanwhile, asked, “Is the language used in the letter acceptable to the President of India?”
He pointed out that the Governor himself takes the oath of uphold constitutional tenets. While maintaining that the “Governor had disrespected his position”, he added: “He is also the Governor of Goa. There also the temples are closed. I don’t see any letter sent there.”
Coming out in Thackeray’s support, NCP leader and state Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said that it was not a crime to be secular. “Our Constitution is secular… I don’t think it is wrong to tread cautiously on reopening temples considering the possible crowding at the religious places.”
With the allies firmly on its side, Shiv Sena termed Thackeray’s response to the Governor’s letter as a “historic document”. Party spokesman Sanjay Raut said the CM had set an example by replying in a dignified manner and remaining within constitutional boundaries in response to a Governor, who was “interfering with the work of the chief minister”.
Questioning the content of the Governor’s letter, the Sena MP said, “Nobody should have a question in mind about whether one is Hindutvavadi or not. What matters is whether the government is being run as per the Constitution or not.”
The state BJP on Tuesday held protests across Maharashtra demanding unlocking of temples. State BJP president Chandrakant Patil, while leading a protest in Shirdi, said: “Uddhav Thackeray needs lessons on Hindutva.”
“The government should not test the patience of Hindu religious leaders, saints and warkaris. If the government remains indifferent to our demands, people will forcibly barge inside religious places and break open the doors of temples,” he added.
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