A year after he was not allowed to perform the traditional mahapuja at Pandharpur temple, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis performed the traditional puja on Ashadhi Ekadashi. In 2018, amid the Maratha reservation unrest, the Maratha Kranti Morcha agitating for quotas warned Fadnavis against visiting the town. The CM cancelled his visit revealing that there were intelligence reports that agitators are planning to create stampede-like situation and release snake among thousands of warkaris. After his visit was cancelled, the opposition Congress and National Congress Party criticised his decision. Recalling that he wasn't able to participate in the annual puja last year, Fadnavis said to PTI, “The Lord resides in the hearts and homes of people outside Pandharpur too.”
The chief minister said he had prayed for peace and prosperity of the state and its people. “I prayed to Vithoba for giving his blessings to the government’s efforts to make the state drought free,” he said to PTI. Vithal Chavan and his wife Prayag were the pilgrims who got the opportunity to perform the rituals alongside the Devendra Fadnavis and his wife Amruta. Talking to PTI about his next visit to the temple, he says, “The people of the state and Lord Vitthal had blessed us last time (in the 2014 polls) and would do the same this year too.”
Why does CM perform puja?
It is a tradition for the sitting chief minister of Maharashtra to perform the puja at Pandharpur every year on Ashadhi Ekadashi, also called as Shayani Ekadashi. It is said that on Shayani Ekadashi and Prabodhini Ekadashi the CM performs rituals on behalf of the Government of Maharashtra. Pujas performed on behalf of the government are called ‘sarkari mahapuja’.
Wins hearts of Maratha community
After last year’s quota controversy, Fadnavis performed the puja at his official residence ‘Varsha’ in South Mumbai. This year Fadnavis returned to the temple after winning over the hearts of the community. In November 2018, the BJP-led government in Maharashtra enacted the quota law for Marathas and in June 2019 the Bombay High Court upheld the reservation given to the community by the Maharashtra government. With this, he not only managed to end the agitation but as a goodwill gesture, in his personal capacity, distributed five lakh raincoats to those undertaking the procession. A video of thousands of warkaris wearing yellow raincoats was viral on social media.