Mumbai: While the Congress has started temple-hopping before every election, its alliance partner in Maharashtra, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has also decided to appropriate the saffron flag, which is considered to be the symbol of Marathi pride.
Intending to evoke regional sentiments before Assembly polls, NCP leader Ajit Pawar on Saturday announced that two flags will be unfurled at party rallies — one party’s flag and other a saffron flag bearing the image of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
“Maharaj does not belong to any one political party,” Mr Pawar said while making the announcement in party’s Shivswarajya Yatra at Pathri in Parbhani district.
According to political experts, Mr Pawar’s move is a bid to counter majoritarian politics played by the ruling BJP.
Senior political analyst Abhay Deshpande said, “Earlier, Shiv Sena had a monopoly on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Since 2014 Assembly polls, the BJP, too, started mentioning Maharaj in its campaign. NCP’s decision to unfurl the saffron flag is clearly a move to counter BJP and Shiv Sena’s politics.”
The NCP started Shiv-Swarajya Yatra with MP Amol Kolhe, who had played the role of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in a TV serial, given the task of organising the rally.
The NCP also had plans to rope in its Member of Parliament from Satara Udayanraje Bhosale, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji, for the rallies. However, the plan didn’t work out.
Mr Deshpande also added that the move to unfurl saffron flag would not have much effect on the voters.
Meanwhile, the BJP minister Vinod Tawde has slammed the NCP’s Pawar for his decision to unfurl two flags. “People, on whom the court has directed to register offences, have no right to touch the saffron flag,” he said.
Till now, it is the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena which has been using saffron flags at its rallies and events. The Maharashtra Assembly polls are due in September- October.