Protest threat by Maratha leaders: Fadnavis skips puja in Pandharpur temple, performs ritual at home

Some Maratha community leaders had threatened to disrupt Fadnavis' visit to Pandharpur today if their demands, including reservation in government jobs and education, are not accepted.

Published: 23rd July 2018 12:50 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd July 2018 12:50 PM   |  A+A-

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis (File | PTI)

By PTI

MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today skipped the annual puja at the Lord Vitthal Temple in Pandharpur town due to protest threats by Marathas and instead performed rituals at his home here.

Fadnavis performed the puja at his home around 4 am.

As part of a long-standing tradition, the sitting chief minister every year offers prayers at the temple dedicated to Lord Vitthal and Rukmini at Pandharpur in Solapur district, located around 400 km from here, on the occasion of 'Ashadhi Ekadashi'.

The auspicious day of performing the puja is decided as per the lunar calendar and this year it falls today.

After the chief minister performs the puja, everyone else gets an entry into the temple and prayers continue for the next few months.

Later, a similar puja is performed by the deputy chief minister or the second in rank in the state cabinet on the occasion of 'Kartik Ekadashi'.

Some Maratha community leaders had threatened to disrupt Fadnavis' visit to Pandharpur today if their demands, including reservation in government jobs and education, are not accepted.

In view of the protest threats, Fadnavis, who had been performing the puja at the temple for last three years, yesterday cancelled his visit.

Explaining the reason for calling off his visit, Fadnavis had said he feared for the lives of nearly 10 lakh people expected to be at the temple town in Solapur today on the occasion of 'Ashadhi Ekadashi'.

He said if throwing stones at him can get the reservation for the Maratha community, he was ready for it and that he took the decision of not offering prayers at the temple to avoid any law and order problem.

Meanwhile, in Pandharpur, a farmer couple from Hingoli district performed the traditional puja along with senior state cabinet ministers and Solapur district guardian minister Vijay Deshmukh in the temple's sanctum sanctorum.

A pro-quota leader of the community had announced some days back in Pandharpur that if Fadnavis visits the temple town today, "they will hold a massive protest there and disrupt the puja".

Fadnavis had said such a move was a shame for a "progressive" state like Maharashtra.

He also said that only the court can take a decision on the issue of grant of reservation to the Maratha community.

Maratha community leaders had earlier taken out several rallies in various districts to highlight their demands.

Last year, a huge rally was organised in this connection in Mumbai.

Despite assurances from Fadnavis to fulfil the demands, nothing concrete has been done till now, community leaders have claimed.

Ekadashi marks the culmination of a pilgrimage, called 'waari', that devotees undertake from across the state on foot to reach the temple town in western Maharashtra.

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