A major and unprecedented war-of-words broke out in Maharashtra between Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray over the state delaying the re-opening of temples and other places of worship.
IN an unusually worded official letter demanding the immediate re-opening of places of worship, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari mockingly asked Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray if he has turned “secular”, provoking Thackeray to respond by reminding Koshyari that the word “secular” is in the Constitution he had sworn to protect when he took the oath of office in Raj Bhavan.
Koshyari sent the letter Monday. Thackeray hit back Tuesday saying he did not need his Hindutva credentials certified by Koshyari. CP leader Sharad Pawar closed ranks with Thackeray, with a strong letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing “shock and surprise” at the “intemperate language” used by the Governor.
“In the very preamble of our Constitution, the word “secular” is added that equates and shields all religion, and hence the chair of the Chief Minister must uphold such tenets of the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Governor’s letter to the Chief Minister invokes the connotation as if written to the leader of a political party,” wrote Pawar.
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.”
The BJP, which began a state wide agitation today for the reopening of temples, slammed Thackeray. Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said in Jalgaon that the language used by the Chief Minister in his letter to the Governor was not “appropriate”. Said Fadnavis, “Governor is a constitutional position. It has certain decorum. Any communication has to maintain that dignity”.
Koshyari’s missive was apparently prompted by Thackeray’s address Sunday that the government had decided not to open places of worship because of the continuing danger from Covid. Thackeray said that “it was out of love and care for the people” that the government was treading cautiously.
In an affidavit in the court, the government said the Ganesh festival “was really an eye-opener” that overcrowding could set off a “major surge” in the spread of infection which will be “impossible to contain.”
Calling this “most unfortunate,” Koshyari said: “It is ironical while, on one hand, the state government has permitted the opening of bars, restaurants and beaches, on the other hand, our Gods and Goddesses have been condemned to stay in the lockdown.”
The state government has been firm on not reopening places of worship fearing that large gatherings, especially during the festival season, could turn into infection super spreaders. In his address, the CM said: “Navratri, Diwali and other religious festivals are coming up. We are slowly opening our doors for prosperity and good health but not for the coronavirus”.
शिवसेना पक्षप्रमुख, मुख्यमंत्री उद्धव बाळासाहेब ठाकरे यांनी मा. राज्यपाल भगत सिंह कोश्यारी जी यांच्या पत्राला उत्तर दिले आहे. pic.twitter.com/8duuQl45tV
— Office of Uddhav Thackeray (@OfficeofUT) October 13, 2020
Immediately, Uddhav, the Shiv Sena President, in a letter shot back saying: “You have taken oath as a Governor…and secularism is a part of the Constitution.” “However, I don’t need a certificate on Hindutva from anybody, nor do I have to learn it from anyone.
Those giving a warm welcome to people who compare my state and its capital (Mumbai) with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir don’t fit in my Hindutva,” Thackeray said referring to the recent episode involving Kangana Ranaut. In the strong response, he asked: “Are you implying that merely opening temples is ‘Hindutva’ and keeping them shut is being ‘secular’?”