Pune: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis declared that he will not be visiting Pandharpur for the customary pooja at the Vitthal temple on Ashadhi Ekadashi on Monday, quoting intelligence reports of possible incidents due to the ongoing Maratha agitations. His decision has sparked a debate over the possible use of the Wari as a political platform or its politicisation. Meanwhile, the opposition attacked the CM for not facing the people and breaking tradition.
Sadanand More, a prominent thinker of the Warkari tradition and a descendant of Tukaram Maharaj, said the Wari should not be used for any cause. “The Wari and the Vitthal temple is a sacred place. No one, may it be a political party, organisation or movement, should use it as a platform. Last year, Hindutva outfits tried to create a ruckus over the Palkhi and I had opposed that too,” More said, adding, “The same rule applies to the Maratha Morcha.”
When asked whether the CM was right in cancelling his visit, More said, “Yes, he was absolutely right in cancelling his visit out of apprehension of possible chaos. Once a mob goes out of control, no one can do anything. Have we learnt nothing from Koregaon-Bhima incident?. There are many other platforms available to get issues addressed and the Maratha morcha should utilise them instead.”
Abhay Tilak, head of Sant Tukaram Chair, Savitribai Phule Pune University, said, “The chief minister not attending the pooja is not a new thing. Manohar Joshi too had not attended the pooja. Over 10 lakh warkaris would be gathering in Pandharpur on the occasion and to avoid any untoward incident in terms of law and order, the CM might have decided not to attend it as the Maratha morcha agitation has got violent and a small step might cast a calamity.”
The Shiv Sena, which has not missed a single opportunity to criticise its ally in the State as well as Centre, seemed to have gone softer on the CM on this issue. “The CM has taken the decision out of security situation and has explained the reasons himself. Lakhs have gathered in Pandharpur and VVIP movement would create further chaos. He has taken the right decision,” said Neelam Gorhe, spokesperson of the Sena. She added, “The issue of Maratha reservations is in court and there have been sufficient meetings. The demands are okay, but this is not the platform to address them.”
The opposition though thinks that the CM’s decision has come out of unaccountability. “It is unimaginable that the Chief Minister, who is also the Home Minister of the state, is citing security reasons to avoid an important occasion. The CM should take responsibility for the promises made by him to the Maratha community and establish a dialogue with the community instead of avoiding them,” said Supriya Sule, leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, adding, “But we have seen how the government treats anyone making a demanding by how it treated the tribal students in Nashik, the milk protesters and others. It is the moral responsibility of the CM to answer the demands.”
Manikrao Thakare of the Congress said, “Whether to follow the tradition of visiting the Wari is a personal decision of the CM. But he is surely answerable to the Maratha community for the promises that he had made to them. The CM has thousands of policemen at his disposal and he should not be making security an excuse. He should be looking into the demands as the head of the state.”
The organisers of the Maratha morcha, however, feel betrayed. “We are not politicising the Wari. We have been equidistant from the NCP and the Congress too. The CM is putting forward the excuse of protocol and security, but every year when they use this as a publicity platform it is okay for them,” said Prashant Bhosale, a Maratha morcha activist, adding, “This is nothing but a ploy to malign the Maratha community. The CM could have earned our goodwill by making a dialogue with us. But by putting us in such a bad view, he himself has created unnecessary tensions.”