BJP MLA Suresh Halvankar asked for a review of Shivaji's birth date (File Photo)
BJP MLA Suresh Halvankar today triggered some heated exchanges in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly by demanding that a committee of historians be set up to review the birth date of iconic Maratha warrior king Shivaji.
The dispute over king Shivaji's birth date is quite old. While some right-wing groups, including the ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena, celebrate his birth anniversary as per the Hindu (lunar) calendar, the state government has recognised February 19 as the official birth date of the 17th century ruler.
"Going by people's sentiments and some newly emerged evidence, more authentic birth date seems to be April 8. I think the state government should set up a new committee of experts to review the existing birth date," Mr Halvankar said in the House today.
He raised the issue moments before opposition leaders were supposed to begin discussion on pink bollworm attack on cotton crop and the losses incurred by farmers.
"Shivaji Maharaj being the icon of Maharashtra, a dispute over his birth date is uncalled for, and an experts' committee must be formed to sort out the issue. Apart from the official date of February 19, the birth anniversary is also celebrated on April 8. There should be uniformity," the BJP MLA said.
NCP's Jitendra Awhad took objection to Mr Halvankar's demand, saying he was spreading misinformation. "The state government has already ascertained the birth date of king Shivaji. The BJP MLA is purposely playing with the emotions of people of Maharashtra by restarting a closed dispute," Mr Awhad said.
Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil (Congress) demanded that Mr Halvankar's statement be expunged from the record.
However, Speaker Haribhau Bagde refused to expunge the statement, saying that MR Halvankar had simply shared some information and asked the House to take cognisance of the matter, without using any unparliamentary language.
As opposition MLAs started shouting slogans against the government over the issue, treasury benches shouted counter-slogans.
Shiv Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said his party believes that king Shivaji's birth anniversary should be celebrated as per the Hindu calender.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar pointed out that the previous Sena-BJP government of 1990s had formed the committee to fix king Shivaji's birth date. "This committee's report said that the birth anniversary be celebrated on February 19. No one should try to distort the history as people of Maharashtra will not tolerate messing up with the history of state's greatest warrior king," Mr Pawar said.