Sharad Pawar Amid Hanuman Chalisa Row

Amid a political row in Maharashtra over the recitation of Hanuman Chalisa, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Monday said there is no need to display religious sentiments in public. Also, in an apparent jibe at the opposition BJP in Maharashtra, Pawar said some people were getting anxious after losing power.

Speaking to reporters here on the sidelines of an event, Pawar, whose party shares power with the Shiv Sena and Congress in Maharashtra, said it is a good thing that the state government decided to call an all-party meeting on Monday over the issue of loudspeakers at religious places, and he will be very happy if something good comes out of the meet. He also said that earlier there used to be spirit of friendship among political opponents, but now “undesirable things” are being witnessed.

Asked about the atmosphere prevailing in the state in the wake of issues like the row over recitation of Hanuman Chalisa, Pawar said every person has his sentiments about their religion, but it is good if the person keeps that sentiment in his heart and in his house. “There is no need to display it (publicly),” he said. “If efforts are made to spread hatred against communities or classes, adverse effects would be seen in society. Maharashtra never experienced this (kind of situation). Of late, such things are happening. I am surprised over this,” he said. Pawar said if someone wants to conduct a religious programme, he can do so in his own house. “But, if you decide to hold that religious programme at my doorstep, then people who have faith in me can become anxious. Unfortunately, some people are creating such kind of an atmosphere of late. Let’s see, in the coming days, the atmosphere will improve,” he said.

Pawar further said that people like him always strive to curb hatred and differences among people in the state and restore the old tradition of having the spirit of friendship. Asked about statements of some opposition leaders that the situation in Maharashtra warrants President’s rule in the state, Pawar said it is true that some people get anxious after power goes out of their hands. “This is not a new thing. Not everyone is like me. After our (state) government was dismissed in 1980, I was told about it at 12.30 in the night. I along with my friends immediately vacated the (CM’s) house and moved to another place and on the next day, we all went to watch a cricket match at the Wankhede stadium and enjoyed the whole day,” the former chief minister said.

Power comes and goes, and there is no need to be anxious, the NCP chief said. “Of late, some people are getting anxious and I do not blame them, because before the (2019) state election claims were made of coming again to power, and it did not materialise, that’s why there is this anxiousness,” the former Union minister said.

After the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Shiv Sena parted ways with long-term ally BJP over the issue of sharing the chief ministerial post. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party then tied-up with the NCP and Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state. Asked about a BJP delegation going to meet the Union home secretary over some incidents that have taken place in Mumbai, Pawar said it is obvious that some “anxious people” will go and explore their options, but there is no need to think over it.

The state capital recently witnessed a political row over use of loudspeakers at religious places and the recitation of Hanuman Chalisa. Pawar said, “The threat of the imposition of President’s rule is always made, but it has no outcome. If a mid-term poll situation arises, then the recent Kolhapur byelection result has shown what kind of result would be there, and I think no one will go to that extent (of imposition of President’s rule).” In a boost for the tripartite MVA government in Maharashtra, the Congress recently won the byelection to the Kolhapur North Assembly constituency, retaining the seat by defeating the BJP.

Pawar said he has worked in the state for several years and he and Shiv Sena founder late Balasaheb Thackeray had differences and both used to criticise each other, but despite that, they would meet at each other’s houses. “There used to be a spirit of friendship among political opponents in the state and that tradition had been going on since Maharashtra’s first chief minister Yashwantrao Chavan. Unfortunately, undesirable things are being witnessed now,” he said. Pawar also said everyone has the right to criticise chief minister on policy front, but personal attack on the CM is not good. “The CM is an institution. When I look at the CM’s position, I don’t just see Uddhav Thackeray, it is an institution and respect has to be shown to it. But, some people have taken a stand not to respect it,” he said.

Asked if Union Home Minister has given signals about bringing the Uniform Civil Code, Pawar said if any decision is to be taken, it has to be discussed in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. “In Parliament, there is a tradition that before taking such decision, a dialogue takes place with the opposition. If that opportunity comes, we will also put forth our opinions,” he said. On the electricity problems in Maharashtra, Pawar said several states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the country are facing the power crisis. “There are two reasons. The first is high power demand due to the soaring temperature and the second is shortage of raw material. I do not want to get into the details of what the state government and the Centre are saying. I think, everyone should sit together and find a solution to the power crisis and ensure the state’s economy is not adversely affected,” he said.

Pawar said as per his information, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is spending a lot of time in his daily schedule to find a solution to the crisis and the situation will improve. “The situation will improve once the rain starts, but again it will take another one-and-a-half months,” he added.

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