Opposition parties claim credit for reopening of temples

Religious places outside containment zones to open in Maharashtra today; BJP leaders to visit Shirdi for darshan, MNS calls for aarti in every temple

With the Maharashtra government set to reopen religious places outside containment zones on Monday, Opposition parties in the State have rushed to claim credit for the move.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday announced the reopening of places of worship, which have been shut since the COVID-19-induced lockdown was imposed in March. He urged the people of the State to follow the government’s COVID-19 guidelines to check the spread of the virus.

Pravin Darekar, Leader of the Opposition in Council, on Sunday claimed that the State government was forced to take the decision owing to sustained pressure from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Mr. Darekar said, “We do not want to claim credit, but this State government had no intention to reopen temples. The BJP supported the demand and forced the government’s hand.”

Tushar Bhosle, president of the BJP State unit’s spiritual front, said he would be heading to the temple town of Shirdi with several priests for darshan on Monday.

BJP State president Chandrakant Patil said the government intentionally wanted to keep temples shut. The party had spearheaded two agitations across the State to demand the reopening of temples and several delegations met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to push for the demand. Mr. Koshyari then wrote a letter to Mr. Thackeray declaring that “our gods and goddesses have been condemned to remain in lockdown” and wondering whether the CM has “suddenly turned secular”.

Later, Union Home Minister Amit Shah admitted that Mr. Koshyari should have been more restrained in his choice of words.

Meanwhile, the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has called for an aarti to be held at every temple on Monday. “Many priests had gone to meet Raj Thackeray after which he appealed to the State government to open temples. Only then was it approved,” the MNS said, claiming credit for the government’s decision.

‘Taking cautious steps’

Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the government never intended to keep religious places shut forever. “The State is fighting a battle against the novel coronavirus. The economy is in a shambles and the State government is taking cautious steps. We welcome the government’s decision and appeal to the people to follow the norms,” he said.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said there was no question of taking credit for the move. He said, “The SOPs drafted by the government need to be followed strictly. There is no need to take credit. It was God’s will that people stay at home, and now it is God’s will that places of worship reopen with precautions.”

On the BJP claiming the move as a victory of Hindutva, he said not just temples, all places of worship will reopen. “This is not a victory or defeat of anybody,” he said. Places of worship were closed on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s instructions, Mr. Raut said.

(With PTI inputs)

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