In an unprecedented massive show of strength, over 80 political parties and social organisations staged a silent march here on Tuesday to protest the repeated slurs on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and other icons, while large areas of the city, including wholesale markets observed a shutdown.
The processionists, estimated at nearly two lakhs, sported saffron flags, black banners and posts and demanded the removal of Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for his recent utterances vilifying great icons of the state.
Maha Vikas Aghadi members Congress, Shiv Sena-UBT, Nationalist Congress Party, around three dozen Maratha, Shiv Premi and Muslim organisations, the royal descendent Chhatrapati Udayanraje Bhosale and a large number of women walked in the silent march from Deccan to Lal Mahal areas of the city.
However, the ruling Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party and Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena kept off the protest demonstration, where a massive police contingent of over 7,500 personnel was deployed to ward off any untoward incidents.
Wending its way peacefully through various residential and commercial areas of the city, the processionists condemned the Governor and others who speak ill of the revered personalities in various fora.
Posing a direct challenge to the BJP top brass, Bhosale asked the media that when Nupur Sharma (who made derogatory remarks on the Prophet Mohammed in May) was removed by the party, what prevented it from ousting the Governor for the utterances against the Chhatrapati, and initiating action against all others who keep making derogatory comments on icons which hurt public sentiments.
MVA’s leaders in the procession included Shiv Sena-UBT Deputy Leader Dr. Raghunath Kuchik, Sushma Andhare, Sena-UBT city chief Sanjay More, NCP’s city President Prashant Jagtap, office-bearers Rupali Patil, Deepak Mankar and Ankush Kakde, Ajinkya Palkar, Congress city chief Ramesh Bagwe, office-bearers Arvind Shinde, Sangeeta Tiwari, Mohan Joshi, Balasaheb Dabhekar, and the Sambhaji Brigade was represented by Santosh Shinde, Vikas Pasalkar, and Prashant Dhumal.
Other major groups which joined were the CPI, Maratha Mahasangh, Dalit Panthers, RPI, Aam Aadmi Party, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, over two dozen non-political, social, business organisations, youths, women and Muslim front groups.
The MVA leaders have rejected the Governor’s letter (December 6) clarifying his position to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and said that since he has not apologised for his remarks against Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj or Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, he has lost the moral right to continue in his post.
Among other things in his letter, Koshyari said that he “cannot even dream” of insulting the great personalities as contended and sought Shah’s “guidance” in the matter.
The state has been rocked by a series of agitations and protests against the Governor for his recent utterances that have irked the state polity and top leaders also objected to him sharing the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Nagpur on Sunday.
Besides the Governor, other BJP leaders like state ministers Chandrakant Patil, Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Union Minister Raosaheb Danve, have been accused of making objectionable statements against the state’s icons, though Lodha subsequently retracted his utterances while and Patil apologised.