Initiative seen as attempt to woo north Indian voters who have deserted the party
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Monday issued guidelines for the celebration of the annual Chhath Puja making an announcement of setting up artificial ponds for north Indian devotees.
The move comes after Mumbai Congress unit president Bhai Jagtap along with north Indian leaders of the party held a meeting with BMC officials. Mr. Jagtap had earlier held talks with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and had even written a letter to BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal. The initiative is also seen as an attempt to woo north Indian voters who have deserted the party over the last few years.
The civic body, as per the earlier guidelines, had prohibited the puja at the seafront owing to COVID-19 related restrictions. It had also directed devotees to set up artificial ponds if need be. “It is not possible for individual devotees to set up such ponds. We requested the civic administration to find a way out and our demand was successfully accepted,” said Mr. Jagtap.
Suraj Singh Thakur, one of the north Indian leaders of the Mumbai Congress, said the puja is an important festival for them and they wanted the BMC to allow its celebration like other festivals.
As per the BMC guidelines, not more than 200 devotees can gather at a single spot for puja at open places and not more than 50 for indoor celebrations.
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed that it was the victory of the party and the north Indians that the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC had to reissue the guidelines. “We had opposed the guidelines when those were issued. Now they will have to set up artificial ponds,” said Sanjay Pandey, president, Maharashtra BJP north Indian front.