On 7th August an incident took place in the Mangutti village of Karnataka’s Belgaum district. A statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was abruptly removed from the village chowk. As a result of which, a wave of anger erupted in Maharashtra against the Karnataka government.
A few opposition leaders from Karnataka also joined in the protest.
Maharashtra's Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde immediately shot a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister Yediyurappa demanding that the statue of Shivaji Maharaj be honourably restored and strict action be taken against those responsible for insulting the warrior king.
He put the entire blame on the police, district authorities and the BJP government in Karnataka.
The statue had been installed with the permission of the gram panchayat, but the administration removed it deliberately, he claimed, and demanded action against the officials.
This followed by statements being given by several leaders from the Congress, Shiv Sena and the Sharad Pawa- led Nationalist Congress Party.
In one voice they all held the BJP govt of Karnataka state responsible.
Shiv Sena's outspoken senior leader Sanjay Raut even dared the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis to lead a protest against the BS Yeddyurappa led Karnataka government.
Shiv Sena held several public protests in Maharashtra. They raised slogans, held banners against the Karnataka government and even burnt an effigy of Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa.
It must also be noted that despite of Maharashtra reporting one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases, these protests were carried out while flouting every social distancing norm imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
While the politics on the removal of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue escalated, the facts were very different from what was being portrayed.
It came to light that Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Working President, MLA Satish Jarkiholi had planned an event and was scheduled to install the statue. Even before MLA Jarkiholi's program, a local dispute between two groups led to a hushed installation of the statue on the night of 7th August.
When MLA Satish Jarkiholi got to know about the sequence of events, he held a meeting with local citizens and the gram panchayat and after coming to a consensus asked the authorities to keep the statue at a safe place until the matter was resolved.
The locals from Mangutti who had installed the statue and then agreed to remove it, insisted on resolving the issue between themselves. They were very clear that outsiders should not interfere in the matter. The statue was then kept safely in the presence of the local Tehsildar and the police. Police ensured that law and order was maintained.
In very clear words MLA Satish Jarkiholi accepted that the issue of removing the statue of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj at Mangutti village at Belgaum has been blown out of proportion by the political leaders of Maharashtra.
The question now is, why is Maharashtra government interfering in local matters of other states when their own house is not in order? Was this an attempt to divert attention from the rising COVID-19 cases and the botched-up investigation of the Sushant Singh Rajput case for which the Maharashtra govt is facing tremendous flak from the public?
Will the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP - alliance partners in Maharashtra govt – after having been caught 'politicising' Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and using him to settle political scores, ask their own senior leader, Congress MLA Satish Jarkiholi for the facts of the matter before mindlessly attacking the BJP?
Or is their misdirected outrage reserved only for the BJP?
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a national hero and has always been given due respect by the BJP. We certainly do not need any lessons from those who chose to politicise the warrior king on how to respect our national heroes.
In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also made a special mention of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj at the Bhoomi Pujan of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.
The BJP strongly believes that the honour of those great personalities that have helped shape the character of our nation is far bigger than the petty politics that they are being dragged into.
Using the great Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to score political brownie points is nothing short of a sin!
Priti Gandhi is the National in-charge of BJP Mahila Morcha’s social media.
All views expressed in this article are the author's own.