- Order to shut places of worship was taken by PM Modi, says Shiv Sena
- It had no relevance with Hindutva, the party adds
- Maharashtra has allowed places of worship to reopen from Monday
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has slammed the BJP for claiming the re-opening of places of worship in Maharashtra - closed since March due to the Covid lockdown - as a "victory for Hindutva". Mr Raut said the decision to close places of worship had been taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the interest of public health, and had no relevance to Hindutva.
"The lockdown was imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the decision to shut temples was also taken by him. There is no reason for the BJP to take credit for the victory of Hindutva as the decision was taken amid the Covid pandemic," the Sena leader told reporters this morning.
"It was God's will that people stay at home and now it is God's will that places of worship re-open, with precautions," he added, according to news agency PTI.
Mr Raut was responding to questions on comments made by BJP MLA Ram Kadam, who was quoted by news agency ANI as claiming that the Uddhav Thackeray government had "only taken this decision (to re-open places of worship) after immense pressure" by the opposition party.
On Saturday the Uddhav Thackeray government confirmed that places of worship across the state would be allowed to re-open from Monday, providing prescribed Covid safety measures are followed. Cabinet minister Jayant Patil said it was the "right time" to do so and stressed that the use of face masks and hand sanitisers were mandatory, as was social distancing.
Places of worship were first allowed to re-open back in June (under "Unlock1" guidelines released by the centre). However, this was conditional on state governments agreeing to do so.
At that time, though, Maharashtra had over 90,000 confirmed Covid cases and that figures was growing rapidly every day, with the state struggling to contain the spread.
Mr Thackeray has frequently made that point when faced with this demand; last week he said, again, that he had delayed re-opening places of worship because of the risk to senior citizens.
Maharashtra's ruling Shiv Sena and the opposition BJP (one-time allies till the spectacular fall-out post last year's Assembly election) have repeatedly clashed on this matter. Last month it triggered an acerbic row between the Chief Minister and Governor BS Koshyari early last month.
The Governor, in a sarcasm-dense letter, described Mr Thackeray as a "strong votary of Hindutva" and then asked if he had "turned secular". The Chief Minister retorted that his Hindutva did not require a certificate of authenticity and that the government would decide after "careful consideration".
Maharashtra is the state worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 17.45 lakh cases. Of these nearly 46,000 are deaths linked to the virus and around 86,000 are active cases.
With input from ANI, PTI