Maharashtra governor driven out of Assembly by MVA legislators

Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari had to wrap up his opening address to the Assembly within 22 seconds and literally run from the House to escape ire of legislators belonging to Maha Vikas Aghadi

Maharashtra governor driven out of Assembly by MVA legislators

Sujata Anandan / Mumbai

It was an unprecedented event anywhere in India. Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari had to wrap up his opening address to the Maharashtra Assembly within 22 seconds and literally run from the House to escape the ire of legislators belonging to the Maha Vikas Aghadi.

The Maharashtra Legislature met on Thursday morning for its budget session and, being the first session of the year, was expected to welcome the governor for the customary address detailing the achievements of the MVA government in the past year.

However, the moment he entered the central hall to address the joint session, all chaos broke loose with MLAs belonging to the Nationalist Congress Party shouting slogans, entering the well of the House and one of them even performing a “shirsasana" before the governor. They were protesting his recent unsavoury remarks about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the equally iconic reformist couple of Maharashtra, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule, credited with being the first ever female teacher in India.

Koshiyari had raised doubts about the greatness of Chhatrapati Shivaji, attributing his moves more to his guru Ramdas than himself. His comments on the Phule couple bordered on the obscene. Pointing out that they had married as children (though child marriages were the norm at that time) when Jyotiba was 13 and Savitribai only ten, he smirked when he wondered aloud how they might have consummated their marriage at that age.

The comments have not gone down well in Maharashtra, including with the BJP's own rank and file. Sambhaji Raje, the BJP's Rajya Sabha MP and one of the direct descendants of Shivaji from the Kolhapur seat, who had been fasting for Maratha reservation, immediately broke his fast on the urgings of MVA leaders and expressed severe displeasure at Koshiyari's comments. So did Udayan Raje Bhosale, another direct descendant from the Satara seat, a former NCP MP who had quit the party in 2019 to join the BJP. Various Maratha leaders asked him to apologise and the governor backtracked somewhat on Shivaji saying he had been misled about the latter's history and had now been acquainted with new racts about Shivaji by certain historians.

He has not yet apologised about his obscene remark on the Phules, though Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, has pointed out that child marriages had been common in India in that era (even Gandhiji and his wife Kasturba married when both were 13) and demanded that it is high time that Koshiyari be thrown out of Maharashtra for his unsavoury remarks.

In the Assembly today, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray pleaded for and eventually obtained the silence of MVA legislators but by then the governor had already decamped from the House. Seeing how he had been driven away, BJP legislators then took to the well of the House protesting his forced exit. The House was then adjourned after brief condolence resolutions for singer Lata Mangeshkar and industrialist Rahul Bajaj.

The governor has been in conflict with the Maharashtra government ever since its formation and this is not the first time he had run into controversy. There have been exchanges of bitter letters between him and the chief minister over various issues, the governor even being peeved at the alleged “intemperate tone and threatening tenor" over Thackeray's letter to him on his blocking the election of a Speaker to the Assembly. The governor complained it belittled and denigrated the high constitutional office of the governor. However, for several years now Koshiyari himself has been acting more as a BJP worker in that high office rather than a neutral constitutional authority and may have little cause to complain at the responses of another constitutional authority.

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