Protests have broken out in Maharashtra's Pathri as Sai Baba devotees and Pathri locals fume over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray buckling under Shirdi's pressure and retracting from declaring Pathri as the birthplace of the religious figure. Politicians from Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP have vowed to go as a delegation to the CM and present their case. A local Congress leader has even left the option open to go to court if their demands are not addressed.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Jadhav said, "Uddhavji is not to blame here. We had told him that this place is Sai Baba's birthplace after which the CM declared a grant of Rs 100 crore. We will meet and explain to him that Pathri is Babaji's birthplace." Jadhav added that they have evidence to prove Sai Baba's birthplace as Pathri and they are in possession of a Parbhani district gazette of 1967 that clearly states so.
When asked if he thinks pressure is been mounted on the government by representatives from Shirdi, the Shiv Sena MP said they too are ready for using pressure. "We are also planning to call for a bandh in Pathri first and then the entire district."
On the other hand, Pathri Congress MLA Suresh Warpudkar opined that CM Uddhav Thackeray should have invited a delegation from Pathri along with the one from Shirdi on Monday and discuss the matter. "We have evidence to prove Sai Baba was born here and that's what we presented in Aurangabad and asked for a grant of Rs 100 crore for Pathri's development which was later announced," Warpudka said, adding, "We will go as a delegation to the CM. If our demand is not heard, then we have the option of going to court."
Meanwhile, NCP leaders Babajani Durrani said that the delegation that will meet CM Uddhav will present their facts and build their case. "In a dispute, there are two sides and both sides should be heard and then a decision should be made. We have sent a petition to the Mantralay under the Sai Janmabhoomi Vikas Akhara and expect to be heard and discuss the matter."
After facing backlash from the Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan Trust and agitated devotees, Uddhav Thackeray on Monday withdrew his statement where he declared Sai Baba's birthplace as Pathri. Shiv Sena MP Sadashiv Lokhande told Republic TV that Thackeray along with deputy CM Ajit Pawar held a detailed discussion with Sai Baba trust representatives after which the CM took back his statement. The meeting was held at Mumbai's Mantralaya on Monday.
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 CM 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.