Bengaluru: A day after VBA leader Prakash Ambedkar visited Lord Vitthal temple in Pandharpur as part of a protest seeking its reopening, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday cryptically said his procession must be "welcomed" if it is heading in the direction of Hindutva.

Ambedkar on Monday led the protest of scores of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) workers at Pandharpur in Maharashtra's Solapur district, seeking reopening of the temple which has been shut due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Later, during his visit to the temple, he had applied 'bukka' (a fragrant black powder) and sandalwood powder on his forehead, as Warkaris (devotees of Lord Vitthal) do.

Latching onto it, the Shiv Sena in an editorial in party mouthpiece 'Saamana' said, "In a way, he took the saffron pataka (flag) on his shoulder. The new procession of Advocate Ambedkar and his VBA must be welcomed if they are heading in the direction of Hindutva." The ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra noted that the BJP last week staged a protest, demanding the reopening of temples in the state, while Ambedkar did so on Monday.

It is pure coincidence that the two demonstrations are being linked. There does not seem to be any substance in the often made allegation of a "tacit understanding" between Ambedkar and the BJP, the Sena said.

It also said Ambedkar's remark that he was in Pandharpur to "break rules" to visit the temple was not right.

Ambedkar also said it was the peoples demand that temples be reopened.

Referring to it, the Shiv Sena said it is right that people have made such a demand, but they are also aware of the prevailing health crisis in the state.

"It is crucial that Warkaris have been mindful of this," the Shiv Sena added.

It said nobody had declared earlier that temples would not be reopened. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state has only maintained that it is not the right time to reopen temples, the Shiv Sena said.

It also noted that the crowd gathered by Ambedkar in Pandharpur on Monday tried to break barricades outside the temple, but police did not use force.

"Police observed restraint. It is important. This thwarted the plan to vitiate the atmosphere if the police had baton-charged (protesters)," the Shiv Sena claimed.