I was born in Mumbai and the Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park was a prime attraction. People used to gather in lakhs to hear and see Balasaheb Thackeray. Mumbai Shiv Sena’s Dussehra rally has been organized for the last 40 years. Shiv Sainiks wait for the speech of the party chief in this rally in the same way as the countrymen wait for the speech to be delivered by the Prime Minister from the Red Fort on 15th August. Every year, except for two years of the Corona period, a Shiv Sena rally in Dussehra has happened. But this time there is tug-of-war among those Shiv Sainiks who belong to the Uddhav Thackrey faction and those who rebelled with Eknath Shinde.
Both the groups have sent their application to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation for the booking of Shivaji Park ground. But it has been made clear from the office of G-North Department of BMC in Dadar that the decision on this will be taken only after Ganesh Utsav. But who will decide who is the real Shiv Sena? Shinde faction or Thackeray faction? The hearing in the court has not been completed yet, nor has the Election Commission taken any decision so far as to whose real Shiv Sena is? Then who can decide which faction has the right to call a rally of Shiv Sena in Shivaji Park?
Uddhav Thackeray, former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Eknath Shinde, present Maharashtra Chief Minister will hold a parallel rally on Dussehra in October this year. The Dussehra rally is a major event in the annual calendar of Shiv Sena where the party leader lays bare his thoughts on key political developments in the presence of the cadre. Shinde and Uddhav both called for a meeting of their respective office-bearers, MLAs and MPs of his faction today to review the preparations for this rally. They will also decide whether leaders from other parties should be invited to this event.
There are strong chances that the administration may reject applications of both sides and ask them to hold their respective rallies at some other public places. While the BMC has been ruled by the Uddhav Thackeray-led party for nearly three decades, it is currently being run by Administrator Iqbal Chahal after the expiry of the term of the civic body. The faceoff over the Dussehra rally assumes significance in the run-up to the BMC polls where both Shiv Sena factions are seeking to prove their strength.
On June 30, Eknath Shinde, who handled the Urban Development and Public Works (including Public Undertakings) portfolios in the MVA government took oath as the new Chief Minister of Maharashtra. This came a day after Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray resigned. Shinde was instrumental in the dismantling of the state government as 38 other Sena MLAs joined him outside the state in protest against the continuation of the alliance with NCP and Congress. Devendra Fadnavis who was pipped to be the CM was inducted into the Cabinet as his Deputy even as he initially declined to be a part of the government.
The Eknath Shinde-led government received a big boost on July 3 as BJP’s Rahul Narwekar was elected as the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly. While he polled 164 votes, only 107 MLAs voted in favour of MVA’s candidate Rajan Salvi. The government won the vote of confidence a day later with a 164-99 margin. However, the fate of the government will be decided by the Supreme Court’s verdict on the pleas filed by the Thackeray camp seeking the disqualification of rebels and challenging the Governor’s decision to swear in Shinde as the CM.
Shiv Sena has moved Bombay high court urging direction to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to forthwith grant permission for its annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park. The party’s petition said Shiv Sena was formed as a political party in 1966 and registered on October 19, 1989. In October 2015 the HC granted it permission to hold the rally. Thereafter till 2019, it was granted permission every year.
During 2020 and 2021 the rally was not held due to Covid-19 pandemic, It made an application to the BMC on August 22 and “However although more than 20 days have elapsed the respondents (BMC) have not responded and granted the usual permission,” the petition said.
The petition said in 1966 the party’s founder “Bal Thackeray thought it fit that a public meeting or a rally should be organised for informing the people of Maharashtra about the future goals and party policies.” Accordingly on October 20, 1966, the Shiv Sena’s first Dussehra Melawa was held on the auspicious day of Dussehra/Vijayadashimi at Shivaji Park, DadarThe petition said the party has conducted the Dussehra Melawa every year since 1966 and the BMC has granted it permission.
It referred to a January 20, 2016 notification that “specifically provides that the park may be used for Dussehra Melava and that the municipal commissioner should permit the same on the application being made to him.” The petition informed that for the rally party workers and leaders throughout the State arrive at Shivaji Park “without any invitation and without any formal invitation”. It is interesting to see who gets what. Who proves the strength.