After facing backlash from the Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan Trust and agitated devotees, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has withdrawn his statement where he declared Sai Baba's birthplace as Pathri.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.
Lokhande said that the CM asked the representatives whether they have an issue with the allocation of Rs 100 crore for the development of Pathri to which the Shirdi body held that they only oppose the declaration of Pathri as Sai Baba's birthplace and not any development initiative.
On Sunday, shops, restaurants kept their shutters down, maintaining a shutdown till the Chief Minister takes back his statement declaring Pathri as Sai Baba's birthplace. Throughout the bandh, the Saibaba temple remained open and all facilities like free canteen, free hospitals, free lodgings will continue to function regularly as always. While some Congress leaders have supported Thackeray's move, several NCP and Congress leaders have maintained that Thackeray should not have waded into the controversy.
Earlier on January 9, the Maharashtra cabinet held a review meeting of the development works in Parbhani district. In the meeting, CM Uddhav Thackeray announced that Pathri, considered as the birthplace of Sai Baba would be developed as a site for religious tourism. Thackeray also announced a grant of Rs.100 crore to Pathri.
This move triggered residents of Shirdi to announce a bandh from January 19 onwards. Moreover, Saibaba Sansthan Trust reportedly slammed Thackeray for confusing the devotees. Reportedly, the residents of Shirdi have the apprehension that the temple will lose its importance if Pathri is declared as the birthplace of Sai Baba. The trust has mentioned that they don't have any issues with the Thackeray government issuing funds for Parthi, but do not want it to be declared as Sai baba's birthplace.
While Shirdi is known as Sai Baba's 'karmabhoomi' and where he attained samadhi, Parthi has been believed to be his birthplace but has never been allegedly proved. Shirdi MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and his son Sujay Vikhe Patil have backed the bandh, condemning Thackeray for stirring a controversy over Baba's birthplace which has not been revealed by the saint himself. Moreover, BJP MP Sujay Vikhe Patil has threatened to launch a "legal fight" over the issue, asking why the claims that it was Saibaba's birthplace surfaced only after the new government took over.