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The Hindu
The Hindu
Sonam Saigal

Maharashtra Governor Koshyari under attack for ‘insulting Marathis’

Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari courted controversy by stating on Friday that Mumbai would not remain the financial capital of the country if people belonging to the Rajasthani and Gujarati community decide to leave. His remark drew criticism from several opposition party leaders on Saturday, with former CM Uddhav Thackeray saying it is time to show him the famous Kolhapuri chappal and Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut asking CM Eknath Shinde to condemn the Governor.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of a chowk named after the late Shantidevi Champalalji Kothari at JP Road, Andheri on Friday, Mr. Koshyari said, “I often tell people here that in Maharashtra, especially in Thane and Mumbai, if you ask Gujaratis and Rajasthanis to leave, no money will be left here. Mumbai will no longer be the financial capital of the country.”

He said the Rajasthani, Marwari and Gujarati are not only good at business but also do many acts of philanthropy.

On Saturday morning, Mr. Raut took to Twitter to say in Marathi, “Soon after the BJP sponsored Chief Minister came to power, the Marathi man is getting insulted.”

“In short, Maharashtra and Marathi people are beggars.. Even Morarji Desai did not insult 105 Marathi martyrs like this. Chief Minister Shinde...are you listening? That your Maharashtra is different.. If you have a shred of self-respect, first ask for the governor’s resignation”, he added.

At a press conference, Mr. Thackeray demanded an apology from the Governor. "He has attempted to divide the Hindus and Mumbai with these lowly comments and time has come to send him back home."

"The Governor has stayed in Maharashtra for three years and has not only insulted and dishonoured his position but also the people of Maharashtra by doing namakharami (betrayal)," said the Shiv Sena president.

He went on to say, "During the 1992-1993 riots in Mumbai and Thane, Shiv Sena saved all Hindus and didn't go looking for only Marathis."

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray also tweeted in Marathi, "It is only because of Marathi people that good job opportunities have been created in the State for those outside of Maharashtra to come and work here. With the elections around the corner, one should not spread any rumours. Do not assume that we are innocent to believe this. Do not fool Marathi manoos."

Even senior BJP leader Ashish Shelar distanced himself from Mr. Koshyari remarks and said, “Maharashtra and Mumbai’s development happened through the hard work of Marathi manoos, history also shows same. No one should hurt it.”

Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Sachin Sawant also tweeted the video and said that the Governor should not have made those remarks.


On Saturday afternoon, a statement was issued from Mr. Koshyari’s office, clarifying, “I spoke only on the contribution made by Gujaratis and Rajasthanis. Marathi people built Maharashtra by working hard. This is why many Marathi entrepreneurs are famous today. The contribution of Marathi people is the maximum in bringing up Maharashtra. Mumbai is the pride of Maharashtra.”

CM Eknath Shinde said the Governor’s comments are personal. “We don’t agree with his remarks. It’s his personal view. He has now issued a clarification. He occupies a constitutional post and should take care that his actions do not insult others. The Marathi community’s hard work has contributed to the development and progress of Mumbai....No one can insult Mumbai and Marathi people,” he added.

Deputy CM Devendra said, “Even in the industrial sector, Marathi-speaking people have made global strides. We don’t agree with the Governor’s remarks.”

This isn’t the first time Mr. Koshyari has invited trouble. Previously, after inaugurating four new buildings in Mumbai University, he had urged the Chancellor to name the international students hostel after Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar. However, the student organisations opposed this suggestion and demanded that the hostel be named after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Old divide, new polls

Mr. Koshyari’s clarification, however, was only viewed as a divisive ploy ahead of the Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections. Besides, it has highlighted the old divide between Gujaratis and Marathis that has prevailed since the time of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement of the 1960s, when Bombay and Gujarat were carved out of Bombay Presidency and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray used to openly advocate for the welfare of Marathis.

"What is seen is that all non Maharashtrians vote for BJP. If you look at the BMC elections of 2007 and 2012, you will see that the party invited Narendra Modi to campaign for them in Mumbai and Thane. So, for Gujaratis, it is a matter of pride that someone from their State is in BJP, which made them vote for the party. Even in the 2017 BMC elections, what was seen is that Gujaratis, Marwaris and Rajasthanis voted for BJP and that is because of Mr. Modi and the Hindutva factor," explained Professor Sanjay Patil, a researcher at Mumbai University, whose doctoral thesis tracks the Sena’s political journey from 1985.

In 2017 BMC elections, Shiv Sena had made several attempts to woo the three communities and had given tickets to 14 Gujarati candidates; however, only two won. A senior Sena leader requesting anonymity said all efforts to woo the community had failed because the party was seen to be doing so right before the elections. Besides, they had been given any posts by the Sena.

Gujarati voters are reported to have influence in over 70 of the 244 wards and can be a major decisive factor in at least 40 of them. Many parts of suburban, central and south Mumbai have a sizable Gujarati, Marwari and Rajasthani population.

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