BJP Maharashtra unit vice-president Prasad Lad has stoked another controversy over Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj after he made an inaccurate statement about the birthplace of the Maratha king. Lad’s incorrect remark has invited strong reactions and harsh criticism from leaders across political parties in the state.
Lad made the error while addressing a gathering at the Konkan Mohatsav in Mumbai Saturday. While trying to talk about the importance of the coastal Konkan region, he said, “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was born in Konkan. He spent his childhood in Raigad.”
The video clip of Lad’s statement was widely circulated by political rivals on social media on Sunday morning.
The NCP, while posting the audio video clip, tweeted, “Instead of teaching others, Lad should take lessons on history and life and works of Shivaji Maharaj himself.”
The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Udayanraje Bhosale, a direct descendant of Shivaji Maharaj, also expressed anger and demanded immediate action against Lad. “If a state like Maharashtra cannot respect and protect Shivaji Maharaj’s honour it is both shocking and strange. All those who are distorting history are insulting Shivaji Maharaj and hurting the sentiments of the people. Such irresponsible individuals who are making adverse comments about Shivaji Maharaj should be taught a lesson. Why has no action been taken?” he asked.
Lad’s remarks on Shivaji also had Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray expressing his displeasure. Raj said, “It would serve them better had they imbibed the teachings of Shivaji Maharaj. Instead, what we witness is adverse remarks or misrepresentation of facts. Why? It looks like it is a tactic to divert the public attention from issues like unemployment, inflation etc.. ”
BJP MLC Praveen Darekar said, “I agree everybody should exercise caution while commenting on Shivaji Maharaj. Prasad Lad must have made the mistake in the course of his speech. But his intention was never to insult Shivaji Maharaj. It was a case of wrong information…”
Another senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity, said, “While stating historical facts one should doubly cross-check. Lad made a mistake by stating Shivaji Maharaj was born in Konkan. It is ridiculous. As per official documents, Shivaji Maharaj was born at Shivneri Fort which comes under the Pune district.”
Notwithstanding the explanation, the BJP has been repeatedly left red-faced recently because of adverse remarks made by senior leaders on Shivaji Maharaj. Top BJP leaders at the Centre and state have directed party leaders and workers to exercise extreme caution when talking about history or legends. They have been told they cannot afford to make a mistake or distort facts when speaking about Shivaji Maharaj.
Lad’s statement has also come at a time when the BJP has been accused of inaction against Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for making adverse remarks about Shivaji Maharaj. The governor’s remark that Shivaji was an icon of the ‘olden days’ had evoked strong furore with political leaders and social organisations demanding the ouster of Koshyari from Maharashtra.