Shiv Sena, BJP squabble over Siddhivinayak, Shirdi trusts
The BJP on Friday appointed party leader and realtor, Suresh Haware, as the head of the Shirdi Sansthan, and named several other trustees. The Sena, which was promised the post of deputy chairman, has been left fumingmumbai Updated: Aug 01, 2016 01:28 IST
The ruling saffron allies, the BJP and the Shiv Sena, are at loggerheads again, this time over control of Maharashtra’s richest temple trusts, Shirdi’s Sai Baba Sansthan and Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple Trust.
The BJP on Friday appointed party leader and realtor, Suresh Haware, as the head of the Shirdi Sansthan, and named several other trustees. The Sena, which was promised the post of deputy chairman, has been left fuming.
The Sena has also been promised the chairman’s post of the Siddhivinayak trust, currently held by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). But now it fears the BJP could go back on the promise. An angry Sena has threatened to boycott appointments to various government boards.
This tussle threatens to unravel the BJP’s recent efforts to improve equations with its troublesome ally during the ongoing state legislature session and ahead of local elections.
There’s a reason these temple trusts have assumed political importance.
The Shirdi trust, in its balance sheet for the year ended March 2015, declared itself to be worth Rs2156 crore. The Siddhivinayak Trust, for the same year, declared its worth at Rs327 crore.
These trusts have always seen political appointments, no matter the party in power. When the Congress-NCP was in power, the Shirdi trust was under Congress control while NCP appointees ruled the Siddhivinayak trust. In political circles, these boards are seen as at par with public sector units for the opportunities they provide for leaders to spread their patronage. The Sena, promised its share of the PSU pie after being denied a cabinet minister post in the recent reshuffle, is now worried the BJP will not oblige it.
A Shiv Sena leader, not wishing to be named, admitted these trusts helped politicians expand their clout, not financial so much as social and political. As heads or even members of these trusts, they are involved in various charitable activities, which help build an image and a constituency.
Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe, said the BJP should have honoured the agreement reached between the two parties. “This is simply about the BJP fulfilling the responsibility of being in a coalition, nothing else.”
“Temples have huge amounts of money. With this money comes the power to distribute it the way one wants -- be it loans or scholarships. The chairman and the trust control the economic activities centred around the temple,” said journalist and political watcher Prakash Bal.
According to Bal, it isn’t just the expenditure that becomes a source of clout but, often, the lack of it. “The money in these trusts is stashed away for years and years and is unaccounted for, often. Many trusts have been found to be involved in siphoning off the money,” he added.