Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is most likely to visit Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh on April 6 along with all MLAs and MPs of his Shiv Sena faction, said sources on Wednesday.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s visit to the holy city has been on the cards for nearly a month. His Ayodhya tour, where the Chief Minister will participate in rituals along the Sarayu River and then offer worship to Lord Ram, comes after the Election Commission of India (ECI) awarded the ‘Shiv Sena’ name and the party’s ‘bow and arrow’ symbol to Eknath Shinde’s ‘rebel’ faction in his ongoing tussle with Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray’s Sena group.
Over the past year, the holy site of Ayodhya has been a hotbed of competing ‘Hindutva’ parties including the undivided Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray, the BJP, the MNS and now the Eknath Shinde-led Sena.
In June last year, former Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray’s visit there was seen as a challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a ‘show of strength’ on part of the still-undivided Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray.
At that time, Uddhav Thackeray was Chief Minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government which included the ideologically opposed Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Since the formation of the MVA in Maharashtra in late 2019 following the State Assembly election which led to the Sena breaking its ties with the BJP, Uddhav Thackeray had come under fire from BJP and its ‘covert’ ally – the Raj Thackeray -led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) – who taunted Uddhav Thackeray of having forsaken his ‘Hindutva’ credentials.
In a rejoinder to Uddhav, Raj Thackeray – his estranged cousin – too, was due to go to Ayodhya but the visit was called off following vocal opposition from BJP MP Brij Bhushan Singh, who had demanded an apology from Raj Thackeray on account of the MNS’ past mistreatment of north Indians in Maharashtra and the party’s regional chauvinism.
Incidentally, Eknath Shinde was part of Aaditya Thackeray’s train during the latter’s visit to Ayodhya on June 15 last year. Barely two weeks later, Eknath Shinde staged a revolt which split the Shiv Sena leadership and toppled Uddhav Thackeray’s MVA government.
According to Shinde faction leaders, the mahant of Ayodhya had himself given Eknath Shinde an invitation to visit the city and that the CM would be honouring the invite with his visit in April.