On Monday, the dispute over the birthplace of Sai Baba was resolved after Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray retracted his statement on Pathri. This development took place after a delegation of 40 members including representatives of the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, BJP MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, and Shiv Sena MP Sadashiv Lokhande met Maharashtra CM and other top ministers. Another crucial breakthrough was that no objection was raised by anyone regarding the allocation of Rs.100 crore for the development of Pathri as a hub for religious tourism.
In the meeting, Vikhe-Patil explained that a Bandh was observed in Shirdi keeping in mind the sentiments of the devotees. Explaining the problem with Thackeray’s statement on the birthplace of Sai Baba, Vikhe-Patil emphasised that no government had taken a categorical position on the issue so far. On the other hand, Thackeray questioned the need for such a dispute in the first place.
He contended that too much should not be read into the grant being sanctioned for Pathri. According to senior Sena leader Kamlakar Kothe, the CM had given an assurance that Pathri wouldn’t be called as Sai Baba’s birthplace. Being a representative of the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Kothe noted that the controversy had ended.
Meanwhile, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil too agreed that a consensus had been reached between all groups. Highlighting that the protest had been withdrawn, he said that the people of Shirdi had no objections after the meeting. Furthermore, he exuded confidence in the assurance given by the Maharashtra CM.
The Sai Baba temple at Shirdi is one of the most popular destinations in the country, with lakhs of devotees thronging it every year. While there has been a longstanding dispute over Sai Baba’s birthplace, the situation turned for the worse when Thackeray announced a grant of Rs.100 crore for the purpose of developing Pathri. Thereafter, the people of Shirdi announced an indefinite bandh.
But, on January 19, the villagers of Shirdi decided to temporarily suspend the bandh. They considered factors such as the willingness of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to hold talks with the protesters and the convenience of the devotees. Additionally, they warned that they would re-start their agitation if the Maharashtra CM did not make a satisfactory decision. Despite the bandh, the Sai Baba temple remained open.