In what clearly suggests that the Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis has been able to win Maratha hearts, the chief minister performed the traditional puja on Ashadhi Ekadashi, a year after he was not allowed to perform the traditional mahapuja at Pandharpur temple. This year is in sharp contrast to the last year when the Maharashtra CM was struggling to soothe the sentiments of the Marathas amid the quota unrest. The Maratha Kranti Morcha which was agitating for Maratha reservation had warned CM Fadnavis against visiting the town. Recalling that he wasn’t able to attend the annual puja last year, the Maharashtra CM said to PTI, “The Lord resides in the hearts and homes of people outside Pandharpur too.”
The chief minister had canceled his visit disclosing that there were intelligence reports that the agitators were planning on creating a stampede-like situation and releasing a snake among thousands of warkaris. This could have led to a grave law and order situation in the state. However, the opposition parties- the Congress and the NCP were quick to pounce upon the political opportunity and criticised his decision.
The chief minister also said that he prayed for the peace and prosperity of the state and its people. He said to PTI, “I prayed to Vithoba for giving his blessings to the government’s efforts to make the state drought free.” He added, “The people of the state and Lord Vitthal had blessed us last time (in the 2014 polls) and would do the same this year too.”
It is important to mention here that this puja carries great significance in the state of Maharashtra. In fact, it is a tradition for the sitting chief minister of the state to perform the puja at Pandharpur every year on Ashadhi Ekadashi. It is said that the CM performs the puja on the behalf of the Government of Maharashtra and the puja is appropriately called ‘sarkari mahapuja’.
It must be noted that a lot has changed since the Maratha reservation agitation last year. Those were testing times for the BJP in the state, however, the government was able to manage the situation in a deft manner. In the month of November last year, the Fadnavis government enacted the quota law for Marathas which was also upheld by the Bombay High Court in the month of June this year. CM Fadnavis was, therefore able to put an end to the agitation and soothe the sentiments of the Maratha community. Moreover, his goodwill gesture of distributing five lakh raincoats, in his personal capacity, to those undertaking the procession also helped his image. A video of thousands of warkaris wearing yellow raincoats had gone viral on social media.
The opposition in the state must have been banking on the unrest created by Maratha quota agitation last year. The NCP which is the principal opposition party in the state must have been hoping for a larger share of Maratha votes during the Lok Sabha polls this year. However, it must have come in for a shock as the BJP managed to bag a lion’s share of the Maratha vote in the state during the Lok Sabha polls. As such this could very well mean the end of the road for the NCP as the Maratha quota agitation failed to provide any sort of respite to the party.