A day after VBA leader Prakash Ambedkar visited Lord Vitthal temple in Pandharpur as part ofa protest seeking its reopening, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday cryptically said his procession must be "welcomed" if it isheading in the direction of Hindutva.
Ambedkar on Monday led the protest of scores of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) workers at Pandharpur in Maharashtra's Solapur district, seeking reopening of thetemple which has been shut due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Later, during his visit to the temple, he had applied'bukka' (a fragrant black powder) and sandalwood powder on hisforehead, as Warkaris (devotees of Lord Vitthal) do. Latching onto it, the Shiv Sena in an editorial inparty mouthpiece 'Saamana' said,
"In a way, he took thesaffron pataka (flag) on his shoulder. The new procession ofAdvocate Ambedkar and his VBA must be welcomed if they areheading in the direction of Hindutva." The ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra noted that the BJPlast week staged a protest, demanding reopening of temples inthe state, while Ambedkar did so on Monday.
It is pure coincidence that the two demonstrations arebeing linked. There does not seem to be any substance in theoften made allegation of a "tacit understanding" betweenAmbedkar and the BJP, the Sena said. It also said Ambedkars remark that he was inPandharpur to "break rules" to visit the temple was not right.
Ambedkar also said it was the peoples demand thattemples be reopened. Referring to it, the Shiv Sena said it is right thatpeople have made such a demand, but they are also aware of theprevailing health crisis in the state.
"It is crucial that Warkaris have been mindful ofthis," the Shiv Sena added. It said nobody had declared earlier that temples wouldnot be reopened. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the statehas only maintained that it is not the right time to reopentemples, the Shiv Sena said.
It also noted that the crowd gathered by Ambedkar inPandharpur on Monday tried to break barricades outside thetemple, but police did not use force. "Police observed restraint. It is important. Thisthwarted the plan to vitiate the atmosphere if the police hadbaton-charged (protesters)," the Shiv Sena claimed.