Nagpur: Suresh Halvankar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Nagpur, created an uproar in the Assembly on Friday by demanding that a committee of historians be formed to review the birth date of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
For years, right-wing groups and the Maharashtra government have been celebrating Shiv Jayanti on separate days: the former as per the Hindu calender, and latter on February 19, a date fixed by a committee of historians.
On Friday, Mr. Halvankar raised a point of propriety saying that a dispute over the birth date of Shivaji Maharaj, an icon of Maharashtra, was uncalled for and demanded that another expert committee be set up to resolve the issue.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Jitendra Awhad said that Mr. Halvankar was purposely spreading misinformation. “The State government has already fixed the birth date of Shivaji Maharaj. The BJP MLA is purposely playing with the emotions of the people of Maharashtra by raising closed disputes,” he said.
MLAs from Congress and NCP objected to the statement, with Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil demanding that Mr. Halvankar’s remarks be struck from the proceedings. Speaker Haribhau Bagde, however, denied the request.
When the Opposition members started raising slogans against the government, ruling party leaders did the same in response. Shiv Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said his party believes that Shiv Jayanti should be celebrated as per the Hindu calendar.
‘Don’t distort history’
Finally, NCP leader Ajit Pawar intervened, saying that it was the BJP-Sena government in 1995 which had formed the earlier committee to fix the birth date. “It was that committee’s report that said Shiv Jayanti should be celebrated on February 19. No one should try to distort the history [of Shivaji Maharaj], as the people of Maharashtra will not tolerate it,” he said.
The controversy over when Shiv Jayanti falls first emerged in the 1950s. The then chief minister, Yashwantrao Chavan, had appealed to right-wing groups not to create confusion over the issue. When the Shiv Sena-BJP government came to power in 1995, with Manohar Joshi as chief minister, the State formed a committee of historians and academicians to resolve the issue. Based on the report submitted by the committee to the government, the subsequent Congress-NCP government led by Vilasrao Deshmukh declared February 19 as the official birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.