Maharashtra Tourism Minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha Wednesday triggered a controversy by equating Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s historic Agra escape to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s defection from the Uddhav Thackeray-led camp in Maharashtra.
The statement has invoked sharp reactions from political parties and other organisations.
On Wednesday, Shinde along with an entourage of ministers went to Pratapgad Fort in Satara district to celebrate the 363rd Shiv Pratapgad Din.
While addressing the gathering, BJP leader Lodha said: “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was confined in Agra by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. But Shivaji Maharaj came out for swarajya… CM Eknath Shinde was also for long confined by someone. But in the larger welfare of Maharashtra, he also stepped out….”
Notably, On June 20, Shinde along with ‘rebel’ Shiv Sena MLAs travelled to Surat, and then to Guwahati. Shinde elicited the support of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs and 10 Independents. The revolt resulted in the downfall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. It also saw the formation of a new alliance between the BJP and the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena.
Reacting to Lodha’s comment, Maharashtra Opposition leader Ajit Pawar said, “Can Shivaji Maharaj be compared at all? Can you equate Shivaji Maharaj with a state CM? How trivial? It is very unfortunate and shocking.”
He added, “It’s high time such a mindset is reined in. Those trying to speak on Shivaji are mindlessly distorting or making wrong comparisons. The people of Maharashtra are watching. Let elections take place. The people will show them their place.”
Lodha’s comments come at a time when the BJP-led Centre is under pressure to recall Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for terming Shivaji Maharaj an “icon of olden times”.
On Wednesday, Udayanraje Bhosale boycotted the Pratapgad Fort event. His protest was apparently against the Centre and the state’s ‘failure’ to take action against Koshyari.
Responding to Lodha’s remark, Udayanraje Bhosale said: “At times, I feel it would have been better had we not lived to see Shivaji Maharaj being insulted in such a manner.” Udayanraje Bhosale is a descendant of Shivaji Maharaj.
NCP national spokesperson Clyde Crasto has demanded the resignation of Lodha for comparing Shivaji Maharaj with Shinde.
Replying to the controversy, Shinde however said Shivaji Maharaj cannot be compared with anyone. “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj cannot be compared with anyone. We draw inspiration and worship Shivaji Maharaj,” he said.
Later in the day, Lodha made a statement in an apparent bid to end the controversy. Talking to media persons, he said: “I have not made any comparison between Shivaji Maharaj and CM Eknath Shinde. Shivaji Maharaj is highly revered and worshipped and rightfully so. But examples of Shivaji Maharaj are given to every child. Now, that does not mean we draw parallel. I have not undermined Shivaji Maharaj.”