Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has reacted strongly to Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari's letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray regarding the reopening of places of worship. The Shiv Sena ally wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he was "shocked and surprised" at the language used by the Governor.
"I must mention here that I agree the Hon. Governor can have his independent views and opinions on the issue. I also appreciate the prerogative of the Governor to convey his views to the Chief Minister. However, I am shocked and surprised to see the letter of the Governor released to the media and the kind of language used in the letter," he said in the letter to PM.
It was brought to my notice through the media, a letter written by the Hon. Governor of Maharashtra to the @CMOMaharashtra— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) October 13, 2020
In this letter the Hon. Governor has sought the intervention of the Chief Minister to open up religious places for the public. pic.twitter.com/1he2VOatx3
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," Mr 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?"
The Chief Minister 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.
Mr Thackeray reminded the Governor that the reopening of temples or delaying it "is not a question of secularism" and questioned whether Mr 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?" he said.
Mr Pawar, in the strongly worded letter, further wrote that the Governor's letter "invokes the connotation" as if written to a political leader.
"I am sure you too would have noticed the intemperate language that has been used. In the very Preamble of our Constitution the word 'secular' is added that equates and shields all religions and hence the Chair of the Chief Minister must uphold such tenets of the Constitution. Unfortunately, Hon. Governor's letter to the Chief Minister invokes the connotation as if written to the leader of a political party," he added.
Mr Pawar, whose party is a part of the alliance that rules the state, endorsed Mr Thackeray's reply to the Governor.
"...the tone and tenor used must always be in keeping with the stature of the constitutional post occupied by the individuals. Looking at the turn of events, the Chief Minister, in fact was left with no option but to release his reply to the Hon. Governor in the press. I fully endorse the decision of the Hon. Chief Minister on this issue," he wrote.
Religious places in Maharashtra - the worst hit state - have been closed since March, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the first leg of the nationwide lockdown. The Maharashtra government says crowd control at religious places is a major concern.