The issue of reopening of places of worship closed since March over the COVID-induced lockdown has led to a bitter exchange between Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari who sarcastically asked the CM if he had “turned secular” in a letter on Monday (October 12).
The Thackeray-led ruling Shiv Sena was a BJP ally until about a year back and parted ways over government formation post Assembly polls. The Governor is a former Uttarakhand Chief Minister, associated with the BJP.
Thackeray wrote back on Tuesday, saying he did not “need any certificate” on Hindutva from Koshiyari, and that his Hindutva does not permit him to welcome a person who called Mumbai ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir’. The allusion was directed at Kangana Ranaut and her meeting with the Governor almost a month back over demolition of a part of her office by the Mumbai civic body.
In the letter, the CM said that while the government is actively thinking about demands to reopen temples and other religious places, its primary duty is the safety of people during the pandemic.
“I wonder if you are receiving any divine premonition to keep postponing the reopening of the places of worship time and again or have you suddenly turned ‘secular ‘ yourselves, the term you hated?” asked the Governor.
“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.
Responding to the letter, the CM said, “Do you mean that opening up religious places is Hindutva, and not opening them means being secular? Secularism is a crucial base of the oath you took as Governor. Do you not believe it?”
Last month, the CM and his Shiv Sena were furious after Kangana Ranaut claimed she felt unsafe over the Sushant Singh Rajput death and the way it was handled by the city’s police and administration. She sought to compare Mumbai to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. In the middle of her bitter confrontation with the Maharashtra government, Koshyari had met the actor, leaving the Sena even more rattled.
In his letter the CM retorted: “You said I am getting divine premonitions? Maybe you get them but I am not so big,” he wrote in Marathi.
The Chief Minister also said just like “suddenly imposing lockdown” was wrong, lifting it suddenly was also wrong.
Koshyari had written about representations from delegations demanding that places of worship be reopened. Thackeray pointed out that all three letters referred to were from BJP office-bearers and supporters.
This is the second opposition-ruled state where a politically-active Governor has taken on the Chief Minister. In Bengal, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has been a relentless critic of Mamata Banerjee’s government and he has made it clear on social media.