Koshyari’s statement triggers row in Maharashtra

Updated on Jul 31, 2022 12:14 AM IST

While several Opposition leaders sought an apology from Koshyari, the governor on Saturday said his comments were “misconstrued”, adding that he had “no intention run down the Marathi manoos”.

File photo of Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
File photo of Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
By, Mumbai

Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s comments that there will be “no money left” in Mumbai if Gujaratis and Rajasthanis were removed from the city kicked up a controversy, prompting chief minister Eknath Shinde to distance the government from the remarks, and Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray accusing the governor of dividing Hindus.

While several Opposition leaders sought an apology from Koshyari, the governor on Saturday said his comments were “misconstrued”, adding that he had “no intention run down the Marathi manoos”.

Addressing a public event to name a chowk (intersection) in Mumbai’s Andheri on Friday evening, Koshyari said the city owed its status as the financial capital of India to “mercantile communities like the Gujaratis and Rajasthanis”.

“In Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai and Thane, remove the Gujaratis, remove the Rajasthanis, and no money will be left here. (Mumbai) will not be called the financial capital of the country after that,” Koshyari had said.

A release issued by the Raj Bhavan said Koshyari praised the contribution of Rajasthani-Marwari and Gujarati communities in turning Mumbai into the financial capital of the country.

“Wherever members of this community go, they not only do business, but also do acts of philanthropy by creating schools, hospitals,” the governor said in a reference to the Rajasthani-Marwari community living in different parts of the country and in countries such as Nepal and Mauritius.

The statement, seen as having disregard for the contribution of Marathi-speakers and the working class to the development of Mumbai, drew flak from across the political spectrum.

Thackeray, the former chief minister in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government which lost power after Sena leader Shinde’s rebellion in June, was quick to seize the opportunity to galvanise Marathi-speakers, who form the party’s core support base.

At a press conference at his private residence Matoshree, Thackeray said that Koshyari had insulted the Marathi manoos — the sons-of-soil is an important political plank for the Shiv Sena — and asked Koshyari to apologise to Maharashtrians. Thackeray further accused the governor of “dividing Hindus living peacefully” in Mumbai and Thane.

“The hatred that the governor harbours in his mind against the Marathi people has inadvertently come out,” he said.

“Mumbai was not given in alms by Koshyari to the Marathi manoos. Many people spilled their blood in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement to gain it,” Thackeray said, and added that the time had come for the Centre to recall the governor. “If he (Koshyari) is trying to create social discord, thought must be given to whether he should be sent back home or (sent) to jail,” the former chief minister, whose relations with Koshyari were often strained while in office, said.

“In the last three years, he has insulted Marathi-speaking people despite staying in Maharashtra,” Thackeray said, adding that with his latest comments, Koshyari brought insult to his chair.

“This statement is not inadvertent,” Thackeray said, and wondered if the governor’s speeches were written by his “political masters” in Delhi.

Across the state, political workers from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Congress and the Sena staged protests, as several leaders took umbrage to Koshyari’s comments.

The Congress said there is no wisdom in what the governor says or does.

“His name is ‘Koshyari’. But as a governor, there is no hoshiyari (wisdom) in what he says or does. He is sitting on the chair only because he faithfully obeys the command of ‘We Two’,” party general secretary Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet in Hindi. His comment was an apparent dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah.

State Congress chief Nana Patole said Koshyari’s remarks were outrageous and he had always “insulted Maharashtra through his actions and words”. “The Centre should seek Koshyari’s resignation and send him to Gujarat or Rajasthan,” he said.

“This is the first time when a governor is defaming his own state… He has brought down the prestige of the Governor’s position and level of political discourse,” said state Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant.

Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Ajit Pawar said the governor shouldn’t create unnecessary controversies. Marathi-speaking people were instrumental in creating the state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital and nation-building was not possible without Maharashtra, the NCP leader said.

State NCP president Jayant Patil said it was unfortunate that the governor has “scant respect for the Marathi-speaking working class due to whose hard work Mumbai progressed and developed”.

NCP MP Supriya Sule said the governor was hatching “a conspiracy” to “create a social divide”. “This is a constitutional post... unfortunately, the governor is repeatedly insulting Maharashtra and creating a divide in society,” she said, and called on deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to request President Droupadi Murmu to recall the governor.

Koshyari, meanwhile, issued a clarification on Saturday, saying that he was only speaking about the contribution of the Gujarati and Rajasthani communities to the trade and industry in the city.

“In doing so, I had no intention of belittling the Marathi speaking people. My comments were misconstrued,” he said.

Koshyari said he was proud of serving as the governor in the illustrious state of Maharashtra. “Mumbai is Maharashtra’s pride and also the country’s financial capital,” he said, also recalling his attempt at learning Marathi.

The governor said his comments were misconstrued as it has become a habit to view everything through a political prism. “We need to change this attitude,” he said.

“Lauding one community doesn’t mean insulting another. Political parties shouldn’t create an unnecessary controversy. I will never insult Maharashtra and Marathi people,” he said

Amid the backlash, chief minister Shinde and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis sought to distance the government from Koshyari’s remarks.

“The contribution of the Marathi manoos in the development of Mumbai cannot be denied… the Governor is an important office, and hence, he must ensure that he does not insult anyone,” Shinde said.

Speaking in Dhule, BJP leader Fadnavis said Marathi-speaking people played a major role in the development and growth of Maharashtra. “We do not agree with the statements of the Governor. The role of the Maharashtrians in the development of Maharashtra is seminal. Even in the business sector, the progress of the Marathi manoos has earned them accolades globally,” the former chief minister said, and added that Koshyari’s remarks were in line with the habit of effusively praising a community while speaking at their events.

However, BJP legislator Nitesh Rane defended Koshyari. “The Governor did not insult anyone. He has only given credit to a community for its contribution. Have those speaking against him ensured that any Marathi manoos grew rich?” he asked.

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