Koshyari touches sons-of-soil nerve, Maharashtra Opppsition seeks resignation

Speaking at a function in Mumbai Friday, Koshyari said: “Sometimes I tell people in Maharashtra that if Gujarati and Rajasthani people are removed from here, you will be left with no money. You call Mumbai the financial capital, but if these (Gujarati and Rajasthani) people are not here, then it won’t be called the financial capital.”

On the backfoot since being ousted from power, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray launched a sharp attack on Koshyari, accusing him of trying to divide communities. “The Governor took an oath to keep communities together. But he is dividing communities, he is dividing Hindus. Should he be sent home or to jail? There are non-Marathi people too who have not liked his statement. And this man who ate Maharashtra’s food for the last three years, has betrayed it. He should be sent back to where he has come from,” Thackeray said, addressing a press conference at his residence Matoshree.

Targeting the BJP and Shinde Sena faction, the former chief minister added: “I want to know what these neo-Hindus who have come to power in Maharashtra think about this. The government must clarify its stand. If this parcel from Delhi is dividing communities, then he should be sent back. And if he has committed a crime, then he should be punished.”

CM Eknath Shinde said the Governor should have been more cautious. “His is a constitutional post, so he should be careful that no one is insulted (by his statement). No one can disregard the sacrifices and contribution of the Marathi people for Mumbai. It has become the financial capital of the country because of the hard work of the Marathi people. People from other states come here for employment. People from other states and communities also do business here. This is possible because of the potential Mumbai has, and no one can take that away.”

The NCP said Koshyari seemed to be trying to “please bosses in Delhi”.

Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole demanded that Koshyari be recalled from the state.

MNS chief Raj Thackeray asked Koshyari not to “provoke the Marathi population” and “not to speak on the orders of somebody”, while linking the remarks to the coming civic elections. He also advised Koshyari not to speak if he has no clue about the state’s history.

The timing of the controversy is awkward for the BJP, coming as it does against the backdrop of the uproar it has raised in Delhi over Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s remarks regarding the President. Chowdhury’s explanation, of it being a slip of the tongue, has been ignored by the BJP.

The Opposition parties are also linking Koshyari’s remark to the BJP’s Delhi leadership to reinforce their claim that the BJP is essentially a North Indian party.
Mindful of this, BJP leader and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis asserted that the party in no way endorsed the Governor’s statement. “The role of Marathis is immense in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Marathi industrialists and entrepreneurs have earned recognition not only in Maharashtra but globally,” he told reporters in Dhule.

Adding that it was up to Koshyari to clarify why he made such a remark, Fadnavis tried to do a balancing act, given the BJP’s vote bank. “We should also realise that there are other communities such as Gujarathis, Marwaris etc whose contribution to the state cannot be denied. The Governor was speaking at a community forum. When you address such meetings, one often highlights the achievements of these communities. His statement should be seen in that context. I personally believe that the Governor did not want to undermine Marathis.”

Regretting that his statement had been misinterpreted, Koshyari issued a statement, saying: ‘’I had no intention to look down upon the Marathi people. I merely spoke about the contribution of people from Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is the Marathi population which has developed Maharashtra to where it is now… There is no question of demeaning the Marathi people.”

Expressing gratitude at being “given the opportunity to work as the state’s Governor”, Koshyari added: “We have started looking at things from a political prism, and we need to change it. Praise for one community cannot be seen as an insult to another community. Political parties should not create controversies. I would never insult the Marathi people.”

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