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Maha: Governor, spokesperson’s remarks on Shivaji unsettle BJP

Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari on Saturday said Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was an icon of the “olden days” in a speech in which he also referred to Dr BR Ambedkar and Union minister Nitin Gadkari as icons hailing from Maharashtra. The Governor’s statement drew sharp criticism from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Koshyari made the remarks after conferring Doctor of Letters (D. Litt.) degrees on Gadkari and NCP president Sharad Pawar at an event held in Aurangabad.

”Earlier, when you would be asked who is your icon Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi used to be the answers. In Maharashtra, you need not look elsewhere (as) there are so many icons here. While Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is of olden time, there are Ambedkar and Nitin Gadkari,” the governor said.

Governor Koshyari’s remarks created a quake effect in the state where the legendary warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is revered by many Maharashtrians. Comparing Shivaji to a contemporary Union minister has been viewed as an affront to the Maratha king.

Accusing him of demeaning Maharashtra, the NCP demanded his replacement. “The President of India must seriously think of changing this person (Koshyari) holding a constitutional position, who constantly makes statements that create controversy. The BJP is always silent about his demeaning statements that hurt the sentiments of Maharashtrians,” said the party’s chief spokesman Clyde Crasto.

Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar on Sunday demanded Koshyari’s resignation. “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a great role model on how to use power for people’s welfare and not self-interest. These ideals have inspired Maharashtra and will continue to do so for time immemorial,” Pawar said.

Shiv Sena (Uddhav) leader and MP Sanjay Raut on Sunday mocked chief minister Eknath Shinde for his silence over the Governor’s remarks on Shivaji.

“Why is the self-respecting chief minister and deputy chief minister (BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis) silent when governor openly insulting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj? Revenge Here Revenge. Jai Maharashtra,” Raut said in a tweet. 

In an interview with ANI, Raut said he was surprised by Shinde’s ‘silence’ over the issue and demanded the latter resign if he has self-respect left.

“The BJP is openly insulting Shivaji Maharaj. You should resign. If you have respect for Shivaji Maharaj, why are you in the government with them?” ANI quoted Raut.

The state government, which is partially run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), tried to manage the situation. Meanwhile, national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi stated that the Maratha warrior had ‘apologised’ to the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb five times which percipitated the Shivaji row in the state.

Fadnavis’s in damage control mode

In a damage control statement, Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the warrior king will remain a hero and idol for the state and country as long as the sun and moon exist.

“One thing is clear that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will remain a hero and idol of Maharashtra and our country till the Sun and the Moon exist,” said Fadnavis to reporters.

“Even Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had no doubts about this in his mind. Thus, there are various meanings derived from the remarks made by the Governor. I feel there is no other role model than that of Shivaji Maharaj in the country,” he added.

Clarifying the statement made by Trivedi, the deputy CM said, “I have clearly heard the statement given by Sudhanshu Trivedi. He never made any statement that Shivaji Maharaj has apologised.”

Angry NCP and Shiv Sena workers took to the roads to protest against the insulting remarks on Monday in Pune.

A protestor, dressed up as Koshiyar, was symbolically manhandled by NCP workers as they ripped apart his dhoti and tossed his cap. Slogans were raised against the governor and BJP spokesperson Trivedi.

“The NCP warns of agitation wherever the Governor visits the state, until he apologies for his statement,” said one of the protestors.

Addressing reporters on Monday, NCP leader Supriya Sule termed the Governor’s remarks as unfortunate. “A video of the BJP’s spokesperson is in circulation and it seems like these people are committing the sin of insulting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj constantly. It is unfortunate and it should stop,” Sule said, adding, “In order to put a stop to this, the NCP, Shiv Sena, and Congress have hit the road and are protesting, she said.

When asked about Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis defending the governor’s statement, Sule said, “If the Opposition does something it becomes a mistake, and if they (BJP) do something, it is not so. This is their double standard.”

Sule said that Governor Koshyari is a frequent offender who has no control over his words. “I can understand that a mistake can happen once, but he (Koshyari) has been speaking again and again. He is a frequent offender. When a mistake is committed again and again, it does not remain a mistake, it becomes a choice,” Sule said.

MLA Gaikwad demands Governor be shifted out of state

Shiv Sena MLA Sanjay Gaikwad of Shinde’s faction on Monday demanded that Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari be shifted out of the state.

“The Governor should understand that the ideals of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj never age and he cannot be compared to any other great person in the world. My request to BJP leaders at the Centre is that a person who does not know the history of the state and how it functions, be sent somewhere else,” Gaikwad said.

(With agency inputs)

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