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A minute’s speech, walkout before national anthem: Fresh row over Maharashtra Governor Koshyari

Bhagat Singh Koshyari left the assembly while BJP legislators were demanding Nawab Malik’s ouster & MVA legislators were shouting slogans hailing Chhatrapati Shivaji.

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Mumbai: Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari wrapped up his traditional address to the state legislature in less than a minute Thursday and walked out without waiting for the national anthem, amid sloganeering and commotion by legislators.

The move, perhaps a first, has further fuelled simmering tensions between the governor a former BJP functionary and staunch Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) supporter and the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition in the state, which comprises the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress.

Koshyari walked out of the assembly amid slogans from legislators of both the MVA and the opposition BJP. While MVA legislators were hailing Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji, apparently slamming the governor over a previous remark made by him, BJP legislators were demanding the resignation of arrested state minister Nawab Malik.

MVA leaders said Thursday that the governor’s walkout was “unfortunate” and also did not “honour the national anthem”. Since the early months of the MVA government, which came to power in 2019, its relations with Koshyari has been far from cordial.

Meanwhile, a video clip of Koshyari’s speech at the convocation of Savitribai Phule Pune University last month in which he purportedly mocked the child marriage of social activists Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule has further intensified the standoff.

In the video, which has been circulated on social media, Koshyari is purportedly heard laughing and saying: “Savitribai got married at the age of 10 and her husband was just 13. Now think about it, what must girls and boys be thinking after getting married.”

The Maharashtra Congress had tweeted Wednesday that it was “unfortunate that Maharashtra has a governor who does not know when to say what”.


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What happened in the legislature?

The four-week budget session of the state assembly began on a stormy note Thursday with BJP legislators vehemently protesting against the state government for not demanding the resignation of NCP leader and state minister Nawab Malik. 

Last month, Malik was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for allegedly buying a property with links to the underworld.

Thursday’s budget session convened with the national anthem, with Governor Koshyari in attendance to address both houses jointly, as is practice. As soon as the national anthem got over, MVA legislators started shouting slogans hailing Chhatrapati Shivaji.

The sloganeering was meant to taunt Koshyari, who had earlier this week riled up MVA constituents by saying Samarth Ramdas was Chhatrapati Shivaji’s teacher. Protesting MVA leaders had slammed this as a “distortion of history”.

Within seconds of the governor starting his speech, chaos erupted, with legislators from the MVA as well as the Opposition shouting slogans. While MVA constituents targeted Koshyari for his comments on Shivaji, BJP legislators condemned the government for not ousting Malik. 

In less than a minute, the governor stopped speaking, got down from the stage and left the house, and got into his official car outside the legislature.

“Often, there is commotion in the house during the governor’s speech. Governors tend to skip a paragraph here and there during such commotion, but Governor Koshyari really shortened his speech, reading just the first and the last paragraphs,” an official from the governor’s office, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.

The official further said the governor not staying back for the national anthem “was absolutely not intentional”. 

“There was so much chaos that it didn’t occur to anyone that the national anthem would be played after this,” he added.

Later, the MVA’s protests against the governor, as well as the BJP’s anti-MVA protests, continued on the steps outside the legislature. NCP MLA Sanjay Daund protested with a ‘sheershasan’ (headstand), saying that the “governor’s head is where his feet should be”.

MVA-BJP keep trading barbs

MVA members blamed the opposition BJP for creating an uproar that led to the governor abandoning his speech.

State Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil, who is also the NCP state chief, told reporters: “It is because of the indiscipline shown by BJP legislators that the governor had to abandon his speech midway. What happened today has never happened in the history of Maharashtra. We were also in the opposition at one point, but we never disrespected the house like this.”

He further said that when the governor came to the house, “MVA legislators greeted him with slogans hailing Chhatrapati Shivaji”. 

“It is the BJP legislators who created a ruckus, they flashed banners and so the governor left” without completing his speech or waiting for the national anthem, as is expected of him, Patil said. “It is expected that the head of the state maintains the honour of the national anthem.” 

BJP MLA Ashish Shelar, meanwhile, told reporters, “Our only demand whether inside the legislature or outside is that Nawab Malik be asked to quit the cabinet. We will not budge from this. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure smooth conduct of business.”

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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