Mumbai: Former allies Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena clashed again Friday, as each of them tried to steal a march on the other in showing their loyalty to the Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji on his birth anniversary.
The BJP slammed Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government for imposing restrictions on celebrating the anniversary, calling it a “Mughlai” diktat. However, CM Thackeray defended his government’s decisions, drawing comparisons between the warrior king’s battles and his state’s battles with Covid-19.
The MVA government had published guidelines ahead of Shiv Jayanti, like it had for all significant festivals and dates since the Covid pandemic began last year, appealing to people to celebrate in a muted manner at a time when cases are rising once again.
The guidelines disallowed gatherings of more than 100 people, banned processions and cultural or religious programmes, and called for low-key celebrations.
Maharashtra Thursday recorded 5,427 new Covid-19 cases, a 75-day high. Until now, the state has seen 20,81,520 cases, of which 40,858 are active.
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‘How were Mughals any different?’
Former CM and current leader of the opposition in the assembly Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP agreed that all precautions should be taken to stem the spread of Covid-19, but still questioned the restrictions on Shiv Jayanti celebrations.
“Sometimes I am surprised, in Maharashtra, political parties are having rallies, ruling parties are having rallies, and in such a situation, why just have restrictions on Shiv Jayanti?” Fadnavis asked, referring to a tractor rally held by newly appointed Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole.
“Chhatrapati Shivray (an honourable moniker for Shivaji) is our source of inspiration. We are living as Indians, Hindus, in an independent India today only because of Chhatrapati Shivray. His birth anniversary serves as an inspiration and having restrictions on this is extremely wrong. The kind of decisions that this government is taking, whether it is about imposing restrictions on Shiv Jayanti or cutting electricity connections of 75 lakh people, how were the Mughals any different to this?” Fadnavis added.
Speaking at Shiv Jayanti celebrations at Fort Shivneri in the Pune district, CM and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray gave an indirect response.
“Chhatrapati fought the Mughals and established Swarajya. I don’t need to remind anyone about how he dealt with those who trampled on this Swarajya. Now even if it isn’t the same sort of war with the same swords and shields, we are battling coronavirus and the mask is our shield in this battle,” Thackeray said.
Long battle for Shivaji’s legacy
The Shiv Sena has always considered Chhatrapati Shivaji as its icon, and also derives its name from the Maratha warrior king, implying that it is Shivaji’s army.
However, the BJP and PM Narendra Modi have been making a conscious effort to emphasise their devotion to Shivaji since 2014, in a quest to expand aggressively in Maharashtra,
For the BJP, calling Shivaji its icon not only helps the party connect with Maratha voters, who form about 32 per cent of the state’s population, but also enables the national party to take its Hindutva agenda to a regional audience.
Even when the Shiv Sena and BJP were allies, the latter’s projection of being the foremost follower of Shivaji was a constant source of friction between them.
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