The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Savarkar portrait row

Mumbai, March 10: After the installation of Veer Savarkar’s portrait in Parliament rocked New Delhi, it was Maharashtra Assembly’s turn today to clash over the Hindu Mahasabha leader.

As vowed by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, the Opposition today raised a storm demanding Savarkar’s portrait be installed in the Central Hall of the Assembly. The uproar forced Speaker Arun Gujrathi to adjourn the opening day of the budget session twice.

Unable to hush the BJP-Sena leaders, Gujrathi told the House the matter would be taken up “amicably and without any ill-feelings”. “I will take up the matter with N.S. Pharande (the Legislative Council chairman) and take a decision before the session is over,” he said.

The vociferous Opposition leaders repeatedly reminded Gujrathi of “Hindu maryada”.

Their move decided in advance, the leaders were working to a plan. Along with the unprecedented fiscal deficit of over Rs 80,000 crore, the Opposition used Savarkar as a weapon to embarrass the ruling Congress-NCP coalition.

Sena leader Narayan Rane said both ruling parties had insulted the “whole of Maharashtra” by agitating against the installation of Savarkar’s portrait in the Assembly.

“They (Congress-NCP) will have to explain their stand on the issue,” he said. “We are not going to give up and will take up the matter repeatedly in the Assembly. It is a shame that we have to make a demand for putting up the portrait of a great freedom fighter.”

Chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, only too aware of the Savarkar legacy in Maharashtra, walked a tightrope. He told reporters he was “aware of Savarkar’s contribution”.

He also spoke of a recent interview in which he had emphasised the need to propagate the leader’s views on sarvadharma samabhav.

Shinde, however, shied away from giving a direct answer on why the Maharashtra Congress had opposed the unveiling of Savarkar’s portrait in Parliament.

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