Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari on Friday remarked that Mumbai would cease to be the country’s financial capital if Gujaratis and Rajasthanis were to leave the city, ANI reported.

The statement drew heavy criticism from political leaders, who accused him of insulting Marathi-speaking citizens of the state.

Koshiyari made the statement at an event to name a square in Mumbai’s western suburb Andheri on Friday.

“Sometimes I tell people in Maharashtra that if Gujaratis and Rajasthanis are removed from here – particularly Mumbai and Thane – then you will have no money left with you,” the governor said. “You call Mumbai the financial capital, but if the people of these states are not here, then it won’t be called the financial capital.”

Commenting on his remarks, former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said that the time had come to decide whether to send him back home or to jail.

“Koshiyari has betrayed Maharashtra despite having stayed here for three years,” Thackeray said. “He has ruined the honour of the governor’s post.”

Thackeray alleged that Koshiyari only wanted to “swallow Mumbai’s money and wealth” and thanked him for “saying this openly”. The former Maharashtra chief minister also accused the governor of creating a divide among Hindus.

Koshiyari is a ‘repeat offender’: NCP

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi demanded that Koshiyari should apologise for his remarks, failing which the party would demand that he should be replaced.

“This is an insult to the hard work of the people of Maharashtra and Marathi Manoos who have toiled day in and day out to make the state the leading state of the country,” she said.

Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule urged the president to remove Koshiyari from his post. “It’s governor’s responsibility to treat everybody equally,” she told reporters. “Governor is creating acrimony and division among the people. He has hurt people and is a regular offender.”

The Congress said that even 15 hours after Koshiyari made the statement, no leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had criticised it. “Is their pride in Marathi culture only limited to elections?” the Congress asked on Twitter. “How do the Maharashtra-hating BJP leaders not feel any shame?”

But on Saturday, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said that he does not agree with Koshiyari’s remarks. He added that the contribution of Marathi-speaking citizens to the growth of Mumbai could not be disregarded, PTI reported.

“Marathi community’s hard work has contributed to the development and progress of Mumbai,” Shinde told reporters. “...Despite people from all over the country making it their home, Marathi people have preserved their identity and pride and it shouldn’t be insulted.”

Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that Marathi citizens have the lion’s share in the growth of Maharashtra. “Even in the industrial sector, Marathi-speaking people have taken global strides,” he said. “We don’t agree with the governor’s remarks.”

After the uproar, the governor said his comments were misconstrued and that he had “no intention of belittling the hard work of Marathi-speaking people”.