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'Shiv Sainiks will create history on Dussehra'

October 04, 2022 22:34 IST
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Keeping in mind the bitter backdrop in which the two Sena factions are likely to come face-to-face with each other on October 5, the Mumbai police, along with the Maharashtra administration, are leaving nothing to chance.

IMAGE: A bike rally in Uddhav Thackeray's support outside Sena Bhavan, the party headquarters, June 26, 2022, six days after Eknath Shinde took party MLAs with him to Surat and subsequently split the Shiv Sena. Photograph: Kunal Patil/PTI Photo

Lakhs of Shiv Sena workers belonging to the Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde camps -- for the first time since 39 Shiv Sena MLAs parted ways with Uddhav and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government he led and joined Shinde to form a government with the Bharatiya Janata Party -- are likely to come face to face at many places in Mumbai as leaders belonging to the rival Sena parties express confidence that the Dussehra rallies organised separately by the two rival factions of the Shiv Sena on Wednesday, October 5, 2022, will pass off peacefully.

If you go by the claims made by leaders of the two camps, more than 500,000 supporters from each camp from across Maharashtra are likely to congregate in the city to listen to Uddhav's address at the city's Shivaji Park ('Shiv Tirth' to Shiv Sena workers) and Shinde's speech at the MMRDA ground -- 6 km apart -- at the Bandra-Kurla Complex.

The MMRDA ground, incidentally, is located just about 1.5 km away from the Thackeray family residence Matoshree, a landmark revered by Shiv Sena supporters who still swear by the late party founder Bal Thackeray and his wife Meenatai.

Keeping in mind the bitter backdrop in which the two Sena factions are likely to come face-to-face with each other on October 5, the Mumbai police, along with the Maharashtra administration, are leaving nothing to chance.

The Mumbai police will deploy more than 2,000 policemen on October 5 including personnel from the State Reserve Police Force and Rapid Action Force.

Additional companies of the SRPF and RAF will be on standby even as plainclothesmen from the Economic Offences Wing and State Intelligence Department monitor supporters of the two camps.

IMAGE: Uddhav Thackeray at the Shiv Sena's first Dussehra rally in 2013 after party founder Bal Thackeray's death the previous year. Photograph: Sahil Salvi

"Uddhav saheb has repeatedly exhorted our workers to ensure a peaceful yet massive and grand rally. There is no need to tell our workers what to do and not do. Since 1966, Shiv Sena workers have been celebrating this day peacefully and tomorrow will be no different," says Arvind Sawant, the Shiv Sena's South Mumbai MP.

"They will ensure (peace from their side) and we will ensure (peace) from our side. Our Sainiks will ensure this rally will be historic as well as extraordinary," adds Sawant.

The Shinde camp is equally euphoric about its ability to make Shinde's first Dussehra rally as chief minister historic.

"Shiv Sainiks will create history tomorrow at BKC," promises Bharatsheth Gogawale, the Shiv Sena MLA from Mahad and chief whip of Shinde's Shiv Sena faction.

IMAGE: Eknath Shinde, left, with Uddhav Thackeray, right, at the Shiv Sena's foundation day event, June 19, 2022.
Shinde rebelled against Uddhav the next day. Photograph: Kind courtesy @mieknathshinde/Twitter

Like Sawant, Gogawale is confident that even if Shiv Sena workers belonging to the two camps face each other they will maintain peace.

"We will not let such a situation arise," says Gogawale when asked if the two rallies could pose a law and order situation in Mumbai on Wednesday.

"Shiv Sena workers are the most disciplined and they will maintain peace, law and order, come what may. We are part of the government and so we have additional responsibility on our shoulders," he adds.

"We will ensure that they don't cross us and we expect the same from them (Uddhav Thackeray's supporters). You express your thoughts on Hindutva at Shiv Tirth; we will espouse Balasaheb's Hindutva at BKC," says Gogawale.

In fact, at many places the Shinde camp has organised supporters' traffic routes towards the MMRDA ground in a way that they don't cross the routes of their rival faction.

"The state administration and Mumbai police are well prepared to handle any situation tomorrow (October 5). I am ensuring that our supporters living in and around Shivaji Park will not cross the path (of Shiv Sena workers supporting Uddhav Thackeray)," says Sada Sarwankar, the Shiv Sena MLA from Mahim who is in the Shinde camp.

"Similar arrangements have been made for our supporters coming to BKC from the northern suburbs of the city. We have made all the arrangements (to avoid face-offs between workers belonging to the two Shiv Sena factions)," adds Sarwankar.

IMAGE: Shiv Sainiks cheer during an earlier Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park. Photograph: Sahil Salvi

That said, MLAs from both factions have been busy organising their supporters' march towards the MMRDA ground and Shivaji Park.

According to Kailash Patil, the Shiv Sena MLA from Dharashiv, for the very first time party workers have set on foot towards Mumbai to listen to Uddhav's speech on Dussehra.

"The enthusiasm among Shiv Sena workers is amazing. Thousands of our workers from different corners of the state set on foot a week ago to attend the rally tomorrow," says Patil.

Patil escaped from the cavalcade of MLAs that Eknath Shinde was whisking away to Surat on the intervening night of June 20-21 to come back to Uddhav Thackeray.

Nitin Deshmukh, the Shiv Sena MLA from Akola's Balapur, another legislator who flew from Guwahati to Maharashtra to rejoin Uddhav's camp, adds: "This is the first time that Shiv Sena workers from Akola district will be on their own making their way towards Shiv Tirth to attend the melava (gathering). They are on their way in trains, luxury buses, state transport buses, as well as their own four-wheelers."

Deshmukh expects about 5,000 Shiv Sena workers from Akola to attend Uddhav's Dussehra rally.

The Shinde camp's Gogawale, on the other hand, says, "7,500 of our supporters from Mahad and Srivardhan assembly constituencies are on their way in about 100 buses and 250 four-wheelers towards the MMRDA ground. About the same number of buses and cars are likely to come from Alibaug, Karjat, Khalapur (all in Raigad district) to BKC."

Adds Dharashiv MLA Patil: "We have booked a 24-bogey train from Dharashiv to Mumbai. About 3,000 people will be travelling in this train to Mumbai. Our workers are also travelling in about 90-100 buses, their own vehicles and state transport buses. There will be about 10,000 people from Dharashiv attending Uddhavji's melava. There will be record-breaking crowds at Shiv Tirth."

IMAGE: Shiv Sena supporters outside Matoshree, the Thackeray bungalow in Bandra East, north west Mumbai. Photograph: ANI Photo

While the Uddhav Thackeray camp may have secured the Bombay high court's nod to hold its traditional Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park, the two camps joust with each other over who is closer to Bal Thackeray's Hindutva and who represents his true legacy.

"Not just Shiv Sainiks and the people of Maharashtra, the entire country is eagerly awaiting to listen to Uddhavji's speech. We are looking forward to Uddhavji's guidance which has always been inspired by Balasaheb's Hindutva learnt at his father's feet," says Sawant, the Lok Sabha MP from South Mumbai.

"These are emotional things," says Sarwankar when asked if he and the 38 Shiv Sena MLAs who are in the Shinde camp now will miss the Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park, which they have been an integral part of before they joined Shinde.

"We may not be at Shivaji Park, but we will be listening to a leader (Eknath Shinde) espousing Balasaheb Thackeray's Hindutva. Thoughts that are in sync with Saheb's Hindutva are more important to Shiv Sainiks than being at a ground where we have been all our life on Dussehra," says Sarwankar.

"Jansagar lotnaar aahe udhya (An extraordinary sea of people will come tomorrow)," says Sawant.

"There will be a record-breaking crowd at Shivaji Park tomorrow to hear Balasaheb speak in Uddhavji's voice," Sawant adds. "It will be one of the biggest melava one has seen in the last two decades. There is a fire burning in every Shiv Sainik's heart and hearth."

"Those who left us are gone. We don't care if they decided to join others (the BJP). Only the MLAs have ditched Uddhav saheb. The Shiv Sainiks haven't," claims Patil, the MLA from Dharashiv.

"We have always been law-abiding citizens. Balasaheb's Shiv Sainiks will ensure a grand and peaceful melava. We will teach the gaddars (traitors; a label Shiv Sena loyalists give the Shiv Sena MLAs who joined Eknath Shinde) a lesson at the hustings," adds Patil.

Countering Patil's traitor jibe with a jibe of his own at Uddhav Thackeray, Gogawale says, "We are closer to Balasaheb's Matoshree and his Hindutva is equally closer to our heart. That is what matters to Balasaheb's Shiv Sainiks."

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