Mumbai, October 7: The strength of the crowds showed who was the true Shiv Sena, declared Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in his keynote address on Dussehra at the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), where the Shinde faction’s first Dussehra rally was held at the MMRDA ground. This is also the first time, since the party was formed in 1966, that two rallies have been held on Vijaydhashami.
The Shinde faction’s rally was held at the same time as the Uddhav Thackeray’s Melava at the historical Shivaji Park in Dadar, the place where the Shiv Sena’s Dussehra rally has traditionally been held. Preparations for the Shinde camp’s rally began amid tensions as the Bombay High Court rejected their request to hold the rally at Shivaji Park. Reports of 3,000 sainiks deserting the Uddhav faction and going over to the Shinde camp just 2 days before the rally, added fuel to the fire, with the Shinde camp seeming determined to win the war of numbers.
We visited the MMRDA ground on Monday and Tuesday to see the preparations for the rally. CM Eknath Shinde himself visited the premises to view the preparations on Monday, along with Uday Samant, Minister of Industries. On Tuesday, the police strength on the ground was high as the countdown drew near. The Mint reported that 2,000 Mumbai police personnel were on duty to manage the expected crowds of 3.5-4 lakh people. (On the actual day, police estimates stated that 2 lakh people attended the BKC rally, while a crowd of 1 lakh Uddhav supporters was present at Shivaji Park. Source: Times of India.com)
In the early hours of Wednesday, roads leading to BKC were filled with buses, with fluttering orange flags, ferrying alleged supporters from all over Maharashtra. Reports were circulating on social media alleging that Rs. 10-crore was spent to hire 1,700 buses to ferry people from all over Maharashtra for the rally.
Sudhir Suryavanshi from The New Indian Express put out an interesting statement on Twitter. He said that the Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena largely saw the attendance of Mumbai’s citizens, while the Shinde faction ‘had to rely on people outside Mumbai’ to gain numbers.
Starting from 5 p.m., crowds of Shiv Sainiks could be seen heading to the respective venues. At 7.40 p.m., CM Eknath Shinde took to the stage to address the people gathered at BKC. He spent a major portion of his address attacking the Uddhav faction and referring to them as ‘gaddar’s.
He said the true traitors were those who betrayed the ideology of Hindutva. Declaring that the Shiv Sena was no-one’s, not Uddhav’s, not even his, but Balasaheb’s, Shinde stated that the original camp had betrayed the ideals of the former by allying with the NCP and Congress. He laid emphasis strongly on the ideology of Hindutva, drawing ripples of assent from the crowd. “RSS made valuable contributions to building the nation.” He said, “Balasaheb’s dreams were fulfilled by the Prime Minister of our Nation, Mr. Modi, and Amit Shah.”
Netizens seem also largely of the view that the ‘grassroots’ of the party belong to the original Shiv Sena. Nikhil Wagle, a journalist and former editor of IBN-Lokmat, tweeted, “Eknath Shinde ha Bhajpane hawa bharlela fuga aahe. Kadhi futel sangta yeth nahi.” (Eknath Shinde is a hot air balloon. We can’t tell when he will burst).
Written by: Christalle Fernandes, Sakshi Bhosle, Anjelus Ekka, and Vaishnavi Birmole
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