The party asks its corporators, legislators and Members of Parliament (MPs) to ensure that hordes of workers from their constituencies are at the venue
In Mumbai, the ways to reach Shivaji Park in Dadar area are many— it's a huge ground, after all. But the best way to take, if you are interested in the political history of the park, is the one that leads you to it via another iconic structure: the Shiv Sena Bhavan.
Sena Bhavan is not a grand building, nor is it particularly buzzing with activity 24 hours of the day. In fact, on normal days, one might just notice the Mumbai police barricades and a couple of constables in front of an entrance point that, one might think, leads to some place important.
Sena Bhavan in Mumbai's Dadar
October 8, however, is not just another day.
It is Dussehra -- the day Sainiks from across the state gathered at Shivaji Park to listen to their supreme leader — Bal Thackeray before he passed away. Now, it's Uddhav Thackeray, who chalks out plans for the party, delivers one-liners against their opponents and roars away at anything and everything that has happened over the past one year.
The two A's
On the way to Shivaji Park from Sena Bhavan this time around, the talk is centred around the two A's: Aaditya and Alliance. Everyone is sure Aaditya will win, the discussion is about what he will do, and what he should do, after he becomes a legislator.
"We want him to become the Deputy Chief Minister. And we want him to solve one of the biggest problems that our country is facing: unemployment," Michael Gaikar, a Yuva Sena regional head from Palghar said.
"As for the alliance, we are of the opinion that it should never have happened," Gaikar said to hoots of approval from his fellow Sainiks.
At the venue itself, the opinion is more or less similar. "Whatever decision Uddhavji takes, that is to be respected, but personally speaking, I am not in favour of an alliance with the BJP," a worker from Thane said.
"As for Aaditya, he is the third generation of the Thackeray family. Politics runs in his blood. That he will win is beyond doubt, but what his candidature has done is to balance the disappointment of the alliance with the excitement of his campaign," the worker reasoned.
Shiv Sena workers at the party's annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park
"An alliance with 124 seats for Sena is an insult," a mid-level Sena functionary from Mahim said. Flanked by his supporters, every statement made by the functionary was greeted with claps and words of approval.
There was, however, a note of dissent too. "No, but if you calculate things in isolation, Sena won 63 seats in the last election. From 63 seats to 124 is actually progress," a worker from the mid-level functionary's group quipped.
"Personally, I approve of the alliance," Dilip Bartakke, a Sena corporator from Thane said.
"In any case, BJP wouldn't have won the elections by themselves. Plus, I feel that an alliance allows both the parties to work according to their strengths. BJP is a national party, Sena is a regional party. Some things they cannot understand about Maharashtra, and that is where we step in," Bartakke said, adding that both the parties had worked together while they were in the opposition.
"There are some problems between us, but we have resolved them amicably," Bartakke, who is also Sena's organisation head for Thane, said.
Sympathy for rebels
Among the cadre, there was also a wave of sympathy for the rebels. "Even Uddhavji said some people might be hurt due to certain decisions, but one has to compromise for the party," Bartakke said.
"We cannot blame them for what they did, they did that because they are sentimental about the party and its prospects," another mid-level Sena leader from Andheri said.
Even as Uddhav, on the stage, urged his soldiers to work for the alliance, young Sainiks were unconvinced. "As Yuva Sena workers, we won't campaign for anybody else but Sena. Or we won't campaign," a young leader from Navi Mumbai said.
Bal Thackeray's shadow
"It's been seven years since Balasaheb's death, but it feels like yesterday when we came here to pay our last respects," a worker from Thane, who has come to the event along with his family, said.
"Uddhav Thackeray is thoughtful and intelligent, but all these occasions make us miss Bal Thackeray and his oratory," a police official, who was last posted for a Dussehra rally 10 years ago— when Bal Thackeray was alive and well— said. "There will never be anybody like him ever," the official said.
A Bal Thackeray lookalike at the rally
The party asks its corporators, legislators and Members of Parliament (MPs) to ensure that hordes of workers from their constituencies are at the venue— and it used to show. Shivaji Park is a large ground, but it would fill up to brim. Not this time.
"Earlier, it used to be easy to get people to come for the rally. We never really did any prodding," a senior Sena functionary from Vile Parle said. "Now, certain issues have cropped up," the functionary added, without stopping to explain what those issues were.But one can guess: with the passing of Balasaheb Thackeray also passed the oratory charisma of the 'Melava'. The roar no longer reaches towers far away from Shivaji Park.The Great Diwali Discount!
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