The Mumbai civic body has denied permission to both the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and the rival faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to hold a Dussehra rally at the Shivaji Park ground here citing law and order concerns.
The dispute over the iconic venue has now moved to the Bombay High Court which would be hearing the petitions filed by the rival factions on Friday.
The Uddhav Thackeray faction maintained that it would hold the annual event at the Shivaji Park despite the denial of permission while accusing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) of following the BJP’s script.
The Shiv Sena, founded by Bal Thackeray, has been holding its annual Dussehra rally at the Shivaji Park since 1966 except for the last two years of the coronavirus pandemic, it said.
Deputy municipal commissioner (zone-2) in separate letters sent to the two factions on Wednesday denied permission to use the ground in central Mumbai’s Dadar area.
The Shinde faction had last week obtained the nod for holding the rally at the MMRDA ground in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) on the same day, October 5, as an alternative.
The Thackeray group too has sought permission from the BMC to hold its rally at the MMRDA ground, though Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday vowed to hold the event at the Shivaji Park.
In its letters rejecting the applications, the BMC cited remarks by the Shivaji Park police station that “if any one of the applicants is granted permission to hold the rally, this may create a serious problem of law and order in the sensitive area of Shivaji Park”.
On August 22, Anil Desai of the Thackeray-led Sena had applied to the BMC for permission for Shivaji Park.
On August 30, MLA Sada Sarvankar of the Shinde faction also made a similar application. Following the BMC’s decision, the Bombay High Court on Thursday allowed the Thackeray-led Sena to amend its earlier petition so as to challenge the denial of permission.
In the original petition, the Sena had sought a direction for the BMC to decide its application.
A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and Kamal Khata said it would hear the petition on Friday.
The court will also hear an application filed by Sada Sarvankar, opposing the Thackeray-led Sena’s petition. Sarvankar’s application said that the dispute as to who represents the “real Shiv Sena” was pending before the Supreme Court, hence, the high court should not hear or pass any directions on the present petition.
The Thackeray-led Sena pointed out in its plea that the party has been holding the Dussehra rally every year at the Shivaji Park since 1966, with the exception of 2020 and 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic intervened.
Reacting to the BMC’s decision, former mayor Kishori Pednekar, spokesperson of the Thackeray-led Sena, accused the BJP of trying to corner her party. It was “very bad script of the BJP,” she said.
Ajay Choudhary, leader of the Thackeray faction in the Maharashtra Assembly, asserted that the rally will be held at the iconic ground irrespective of the denial of permission by the civic body. The party will resort to “guerrilla warfare tactics” to hold its rally at the Shivaji Park, he said.
The Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which comprised the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, collapsed in June this year after a revolt led by Eknath Shinde against the Sena leadership. Shinde was later sworn in as chief minister with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy.
Kiran Pawaskar, spokesperson of the Shinde camp, said it will keep trying to get the Shivaji Park for its event till the last moment.
The BMC denying their group the permission despite Shinde being chief minister showed that it was not acting under pressure, he added. To Choudhary’s comment that his group will use “guerrilla” tactics to reach Shivaji Park on Dussehra, Pawaskar said his group has plans but they would not be “guerrilla” if disclosed beforehand.