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Under pressure, Maha govt rolls back 'deity circular' on 'technical grounds'

The Fadnavis government has decided to roll back a circular which bars all government and semi-government offices and educational institutions in Maharashtra from displaying religious idols and texts and celebrate festivals in the premises.

Shiv Sena which has decided to snap electoral ties with BJP had raised hue and cry over this issue.

DNA has learnt the said circular now stands cancelled on “technical grounds” and the officer who issued it will face the music for going beyond his “brief”. The circular was issued by the Rural Development Department on 4th January asking offices and institutions to take down all such symbols as it is against the constitution. However, it came to light only two days ago at the time when tension between the alliance partners BJP and Shiv Sena was at peak. Sena and the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti had also criticised the government move.

The highly placed government sources said, “Firstly it wasn’t a circular. It was just a letter written by an official of the Rural Development Department. So there is no question of circular’s roll back. Secondly, the said official went beyond his/her jurisdiction to do so. It is the General Administration Department’s job to issue directives to the government and semi-government offices.” The official explained,“Thirdly, the official went beyond the “brief” while explaining the 2002 circular in the letter. The 2002 circular just says that offices and schools can use pictures of national icons in the premises. There was no need to explain it other way round. Ordering the government offices and schools to remove pictures of deities was unwarranted.” The official will soon be served a show cause notice.

For firefighting, the government has issued another letter to all its departments on 25 January which states, “The letter dated 4 January stands cancelled now. There is no change in the government policy regarding this issue. You must follow the rules as per the circulars issued in the past.” This means, even as 2002 directives are in place, the government may not strictly implement it to calm down the sentiments of angry partner whose support is crucial for the survival of the government, say sources.

Rural Development Department is headed by Pankaja Munde while GAD is under the chief minister. Shiv Sena has grabbed the issue to draw political mileage ahead of the civic polls in 10 corporations and 25 Zilla parishads. The issue was the talking point the Sena rally in Goergaon on Thursday where Uddhav Thackeary announced to pull out from the alliance in corporations. “On one hand, the BJP seeks vote in the name of Ram and ram mandir. And after coming to power, they just seek to become secular,” said Ramesh Solanki, a Sena leader.

Many Sena leaders have been threatening to pull out from the state government publicly and on social media. Even ministers like Eknath Shinde took to twitter Thursday to say,”Our party chief’s order is supreme. Will resign as soon as he asks me to do so.” However, there is no official word on snapping ties in the State or Centre. “We don’t want to make the government unstable at this point,” say Sena leaders.