Letter row between CM and Governor: Uddhavji should avoid criticism for the sake of criticism

CM Uddhav Thackeray - Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari

The on-going tussle between the Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and the chief minister Uddhav Thackeray over re-opening of temple in the state took a ugly turn on Tuesday when Thackeray responded to the letter of the Governor saying that his ‘Hindutva’ did not need a ‘certificate’ from him. Such curt reaction was not expected from the chief minister.

Making a case for permitting people to worship in temples — closed since the lockdown was clamped in March– the Governor asked a pointed question to Thackeray: “You have been a strong votary of Hindutva… Have you turned ‘secular’ yourself, the term which you hated?”

In the letter, addressed to the chief minister, the Governor Koshyari pointed out how Thackeray had “publicly espoused” his devotion for Lord Ram by visiting Ayodhya after taking charge as CM and later performed the pooja at the famed Pandharpur’s Lord Vitthal and Goddess Rukmini Temple on Ashadhi Ekadashi, July 1.

It’s quite natural that now bars are open in the state of Maharashtra, the debate over temples being closed has risen to a political level as common people want that temples be reopened. The government re-opened liquor shops and bars across the state. And if the government wants to keep the temples shut because of the pandemic then impose the lockdown all over again. On Tuesday, the state BJP president Chandrakant Patil joined the protests in Shirdi and slammed the Maharashtra government for not reopening temples in the state. Shridi Sai Baba Temple and the Siddhivinayak Mandir have witnessed protests by people and saints demanding the re-opening of temples across the state.

In fact, in a federal structure, the Governor has every right to question if things are not interest of the people of state. Question is that if the Thackeray government reopens temples, will Congress-NCP withdraw their support. The way, the NCP chief Sharad Pawar responded to the letter of Governor is also not justified.

On Monday, the Governor wrote to Uddhav Thackeray “requesting him to announce forthwith” the reopening of places of worship with Covid precautions. “You have been a strong votary of Hindutva. You had publicly espoused your devotion for Lord Rama by visiting Ayodhya after taking charge as Chief Minister. You had visited the Vitthal Rukmini Mandir in Pandharpur and performed the puja on Ashadhi Ekadashi,” Koshyari wrote. “I wonder if you are receiving any divine premonition to keep postponing the reopening of places of worship time and again or have you turned ‘secular’ yourselves, a term you hated?” He also reminded the Chief Minister that other cities had reopened such places in June and there had been no reports of a surge in Covid-19 cases. The Governor also called it “ironical” that bars, restaurants and beaches were allowed to open and “our Gods and Goddesses have been condemned to stay in the lockdown”. However, it was not taken in that spirit by the chief minister and he retorted that his Hindutva did not require a certificate from the Governor or anyone and that he would take a decision after careful consideration. “You said I am getting divine premonitions? Maybe you get them but I am not so big,” he wrote back in Marathi.

Not only ridiculing the constitutional head of the state by saying so, the chief minister also referred to actor Kangana Ranaut without naming her, Thackeray added that “inviting people who call Mumbai PoK with smiles does not fall into my definition of Hindutva.” Last month, the Chief Minister and his Shiv Sena were furious after Kangana Ranaut, claiming she felt unsafe over the Sushant Singh Rajput death and the way it was handled by the city’s police and administration compared Mumbai to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. In the middle of her bitter confrontation with the Maharashtra government, Koshyari met with the actor, leaving the Sena even more rattled. The chief minster reminded the Governor that the reopening of temples or delaying it “is not a question of secularism” and questioned whether Koshyari had forgotten his own constitutional oath. “Have you forgotten that you also swore by the constitution that also has the word ‘secular’? Are you rejecting it? Is reopening temples not secular and keeping them closed secular?” The Chief Minister also said just like “suddenly imposing lockdown” was wrong, lifting it suddenly was wrong.

The reply of Thackeray was not appreciated by a large section of people in the state. At least people should respect the chair. Hope, the state will not turn to West Bengal or Rajasthan where such tussle between two constitutional heads is quite common. Thackeray should not criticise Governor just for the sake of criticism. The state government should refrain itself from such fight against the Governor and jointly work for the development of the state.