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At Matoshree, the celebrations begin
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai | February 02, 2007 17:29 IST
Arun Bhogte, 63, a Shiv Sainik turned nostalgic as soon as he reached Matoshree, the home of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in Bandra in Mumbai.
Bhogte has last come to Matoshree 11 years ago after the Sena-BJP combine had won the Maharashtra assembly election for the first time. He never came back thinking that the Sena was good hands and its future was assured.
Since then he has seen the party he helped nurture for 40 years go steadily on the decline.
Bhogte joined the Sena as a young man as he felt it was the only party that spoke for local people's rights and interests.
Though he never held any important posts in the party he was always proud to be a sainik.
He felt the defining moment for the Sena was when it won the 1995 assembly elections.
"In retrospect, I feel we old timers felt that Sena had achieved what it wanted too but I was wrong like many others. Shiv Sena needs people like me now more than ever after Raj (Thackeray) and (Narayan) Rane quit the party," he says.
Narayan Rane quit the party to join Congress and Bal Thackeray's nephew Raj Thackeray formed his own party � the Maharashtra NavNirman Sena -- after the saffron alliance faced a humiliating defeat in Maharashtra assembly and general elections.
Bhogte followed the Sena's downfall in the newspapers.
"Balasaheb was hurt after his nephew left him and all his followers started deserting him. I came out and campaigned door to door for the Sena. My leader needed me and I alongwith many old timers came out to see that Sena heads for victory," Bhogte told rediff.com.
He proudly says that the local councillor in his area Jyoti Bhosale won by 3,000 votes.
Like Bhogte many old timers and youngsters thronged to Thackeray's residence after news started pouring in that Sena was leading in the municipal elections.
Prakash Malavade, another sainik from Bandra, says, "This election results prove that Balasaheb resides in hearts of the Marathi Manoos (people). We all love him and want Mumbai and Maharashtra to be ruled by the Shiv Sena."
Slogans rent the air outside Thackeray's house, 'Jai Bhawani! Jai Shivaji!', Balasaheb angaar hai baaki sab bhangaar hai. (In front of Balasaheb all other are junk), Shiv Senacha vijay asau (victory to Shiv Sena).
The municipal elections were crucial for the Sena as it was for party Executive President Uddhav Thackeray.
Many political analysts had gone to the extent of saying this election would lead to burial of Sena as Bal Thackeray was 80 and the party was going nowhere without a charismatic leader to replace him.
Dr Deepak Sawant, Shiv Sena MLC, said, "Uddhavji proved that he is like the Rock of Gibraltar. His vision saw us sail through."
Many are crediting Uddhav for selecting 58 new candidates in the BMC elections. He also introduced new faces at many other places too.
The senior Thackeray too pitched in by addressing two huge rallies in Mumbai and Thane.
However, what helped the party the most was the fact that the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party failed to agree to fight the elections together.
Though Raj was expected to make an impact in this election, his party MNS failed badly in Mumbai. It only had a good showing in Nashik.
Sada Sarvankar, Shiv Sena MLA from Dadar in Central Mumbai, said, "Raj's party made no impact in Mumbai. His office is the only presence in our area and he has no followers."
Concluded Sanjay Raut, editor of Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, "The elections proved that Raj and Rane were all about media hype. Under the leadership of Uddhavji we figured out a strategy and that clicked. We are a party of 40 years and the people of Mumbai and Maharashtra want the Shiv Sena in power and our ideology is still working."