In a show of strength, the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) constituents in Maharashtra took out a ‘Halla Bol’ protest march in Mumbai on Saturday against the Eknath Shinde-BJP government in the state, and emphatically demanded removal of Governor B S Koshyari for passing “insulting” remarks against iconic personalities, including Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Senior leaders of the three MVA allies – Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress – shared the stage after the protest march, where NCP chief Sharad Pawar said if the governor was not removed, a “lesson” would be taught, while Uddhav Thackeray warned that there can be no compromise on the state’s self-respect and pride. NCP leader Ajit Pawar demanded a strict law to ensure that the dignity of national icons is protected.
The protest march began near J J Hospital in Byculla around noon and ended at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), a distance of around 4 km, where the MVA leaders addressed a rally.
Speaking at an event last month, governor Koshyari had dubbed Shivaji Maharaj an “icon of olden times”. The remark sparked outrage from both the descendants of the Maratha king and the opposition parties.
Earlier this year, he had also passed alleged derogatory remarks against social reformers Mahatma Phule and Savitribai Phule.
Speaking at the ‘Halla Bol’ protest rally, Sharad Pawar said, “The governor should be immediately removed for insulting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Mahatma Phule.” He also said that the ideologies of the three MVA partners may be different but there was a need to be together to protect Maharashtra’s self-respect.
”If the governor is not removed, we will have to take steps to teach them a lesson,” he added.
The former Union minister said competition was on, not for the state’s progress and development, but to malign it.
“Maharashtra cabinet minister Chandrakant Patil says B R Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule begged to start schools…Such an insult cannot be tolerated. We have to be united irrespective of our political ideologies to safeguard the state’s prestige. If the governor is not removed we have to take steps to decide our future action,” he said.
Former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray accused the Shinde government of being ideologically bankrupt. “One minister Chandrakant Patil says Phule and Ambedkar begged to collect funds to start schools, while another minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha likens Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s great escape from Agra to Eknath Shinde’s rebellion and backstabbing,” he said.
Shinde had led a rebellion against the Shiv Sena leadership in June this year, which led to the collapse of the Thackeray-led MVA government in the state.
”I don’t consider Koshyari as governor. The post of governor is a respectable one. I reiterate my demand that criteria be decided on the selection of a governor,” Thackeray said. There can be no compromise on the state’s self-respect and pride, Thackeray added.
On the ongoing Maharashtra-Karnataka border row, he said the unfulfilled dream of ‘Samyukta Maharashtra’ about the inclusion of Belagavi, Karwar, Nipani and other villages into Maharashtra has to be achieved.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Ajit Pawar said the governor should be removed “to save Maharashtra”. He demanded that a strict law be enacted to protect the dignity of national icons.
On the border row, he said, “Never before villages from Maharashtra openly spoke about breaking away from the state. Why is this happening?” The former deputy chief minister stressed the need to stay united and said this protest march was the first step in that direction as the MVA’s aim was to protect the integrity of the state.
“Price rise, unemployment is on the rise and the government is turning a blind eye to these problems,” he charged. State Congress president Nana Patole said the march was a signal that the state was united.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said the governor had no right to stay in office even for a minute. “This march is a signal that governor Koshyari is dismissed. The Shinde government will not last till February 2023. The morcha is the first step to dislodge the Shinde led government,” he said.
A large number of workers of the MVA partners took part in the protest march. Uddhav Thackeray’s wife Rashmi Thackeray and younger son Tejas also joined the foot march.
The Samajwadi Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and other parties also participated.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ridiculed Raut for his claim and said he had dislodged the MVA government right under the nose of its leaders. “What are you saying that our government will not last? It will and Shinde will remain the CM. We will fight the next elections together,” he said.