Bhagat Singh Koshyari
Bhagat Singh Koshyari
File photo

Even a fight over gods and goddess should not be allowed to degenerate into a slanging match between holders of high constitutional office. Whether or not to reopen places of religion in Maharashtra is a matter which requires careful consideration. Maharashtra is the worst affected state in the Union, with the highest number of Covid-19 fatalities and infections. Therefore, abundant precaution is justified.

Having said that, the decision to keep temples and other religious places shut while throwing open bars and clubs and beaches does seem odd. Clearly, bars and clubs where people imbibe hard liquor and often tend to mix freely after a few drinks pose a bigger threat than the god-fearing people visiting temples, probably also to seek blessings for staying safe and healthy in the pandemic. Given that the higher courts had to intervene thrice for the Maharashtra government to allow religious communities to perform their annual rituals would also suggest that there is a case for reopening places of worship in the state.

Some other states have reopened the places of worship. Thus, the case for reopening has some good reasons. But that can in no way justify Governor B S Koshyari’s mocking tone in his letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Koshyari breached the 'Lakshman rekha' of political neutrality expected of his high constitutional office, by needlessly taunting the CM for his political opportunism, thereby seeming to be a party to the on-going tussle between the BJP opposition and the ruling three-party alliance.

His letter was reasoned and properly worded until he mockingly referred to the Shiv Sena Chief Minister’s faith in Hindutva and the alleged switch to 'secularism.’ Aside from being improper, the reference to Thackeray’s secularism robbed Koshyari’s missive of its otherwise reasonableness, deflecting public attention to his apparent overstepping of gubernatorial limit. That one slip allowed the wily veteran, Sharad Pawar, to weigh in on the letter war. He immediately shot off a letter to the Prime Minister, stressing that as a high constitutional authority, the governor has to be always mindful of the tenor and tone of his language. Correct.

On his part, Thackeray responded to Koshyari’s letter in Marathi, dragging in the recent trading of charges between the Shiv Sena and actor Kangana Ranaut, recalling how he had granted an audience to her who had compared Mumbai to the Pak-occupied-Kashmir. But then in politics, twisting others’ words to score brownie points is normal. Ranaut was not careful in her analogy and opened herself to the unwarranted riposte. The governor had enclosed with his letter three memorandums received from various BJP-affiliated outfits, demanding the reopening of religious places, allowing Thackeray to hint sarcastically at the letter writer’s political leanings.

The short point is this. The governor ought to remember that he is no longer an active politician. As for the chief minister, well, he should not play a Shiv Sainik constantly while administering the state. Matters impinging on peoples’ faith need serious consideration. In other words, open religious places in a graded manner.

15 minutes for Rahul as PM!

So, Rahul Gandhi says if he were the Prime Minister he would have thrown out the Chinese in 15 minutes, pat. Yes, 15 minutes. No less, no more. And he said this from a public platform where he also called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a coward. We can leave the coward part aside for now, while taking up the Gandhi scion’s offer to oust China from the territory India claims to be its own in 15 minutes. Though he did not qualify, before accepting his offer and bringing to bear immense pressure on the current dispensation to give the de facto Congress boss the mere 15 minutes he seeks to perform this great national service, we must be told in clearest possible terms the area he would oust the Chinese from.

Will it be the couple of hundred square kilometres which they intruded into under the cover of Covid-19 this March, or will he drive them out from all of 40,000 square kilometres they have been in illegal occupation of since 1962? Such clarity will help people make up their mind in deciding whether or not to enthrone him in the prime ministerial 'gaddi', the rightful family jaagir usurped by cunning Modi, albeit for 15 minutes or to dismiss his claim as the usual Rahulspeak, a frivolous, childish and even an irresponsible boast.

Should such a clarification be forthcoming, Modi should invite the tweet-a-day-and-stay-in-the-news leader of bonded Congressmen to share his eviction plan in complete confidence with him. You never know, the Gandhi scion might have learnt a thing or two from his earlier powwows with the Chinese ambassador which the country may not be privy to. In the larger national interest, even Rahul Gandhi needs to taken up on his offer.

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Free Press Journal