Ahead the impending face-off between the rival Uddhav Thackeray and the Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena factions over the October 5 Dasara rally, verbal slanging matches accompanied by ‘teaser wars’ have erupted between the two camps.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shinde camp’s ally, has further stoked the fumes with BJP MLA Ram Kadam claiming that Mr. Thackeray was allegedly seeking help from his Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies – the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress – to fill up the Shivaji Park in Mumbai where the Thackeray faction are going to hold their rally.
“Given that Uddhav Thackeray failed to keep his flock together and most of his MLAs, MPs and Sena party cadre have deserted him, it is being said that their rally will be flocked with Congress and NCP workers. Talk is that NCP and Congress cadres will be brought in buses to Shivaji Park on October 5. The Thackeray faction ought to clarify these rumours,” said Mr. Kadam, the BJP MLA from Ghatkopar West in Mumbai.
While the Thackeray camp has managed to gain access to the Shivaji Park (known as ‘Shivtirth’ by Shiv Sainiks) for the rally, the Shinde camp will stage theirs at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai.
Deriding the Thackeray as ‘Penguin Sena’, BJP State spokesperson Keshav Upadhye claimed that a quid pro quo arrangement had been worked out between the Thackeray faction and the Congress whereby the former has agreed to support Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo’ yatra in return for supporting the Thackeray Sena’s event at Shivaji Park.
“The Congress has agreed to bring crowds for the Thackeray camp’s rally at Shivaji Park. In return the leftover Sena has agreed to support Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo’ yatra. This clearly proves that the ‘Penguin Sena’ [Thackeray faction] has permanently distanced itself from the Hindutva ideology,” alleged Mr. Upadhye.
While the annual Dasara rally held at Dadar’s Shivaji Park has always been inextricably associated with the Thackeray family, current Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s intra-party revolt has led to the Shinde faction claiming that Uddhav Thackeray has lost its right to hold the Dasara rally as it had ‘forsaken’ Hindutva ideals with its alliance with the ideologically opposed NCP and Congress.
As legitimacy struggles between the factions still continue, the Dussehra rally is said to be an important barometer in indicating which faction had the greater support of the Sena cadre ahead of the high-stakes Mumbai civic body or the BMC poll.
The Thackeray clan has controlled the cash-rich BMC for over two decades now. After Mr. Shinde’s revolt and the dramatically altered political equations, the BJP along with the Shinde Sena are eyeing the BMC – considered the lifeline of the Thackeray clan’s political existence.
Meanwhile, Uddhav camp loyalists hit out at Mr. Kadam and the Shinde camp with former Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar lashing out at the BJP leader.
“Who is Ram Kadam, a defector from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), to teach us about loyalty? He should keep his sermons to himself,” she said.
Mr. Thackeray’s confidante, former Minister Anil Parab Dussehra said that for the Thackeray camp, the Dussehra rally was indeed a gathering, but for the Shinde camp it was merely “an event”.
Both camps have released their teasers for the event, with the Shinde camp’s ‘promo’ featuring bits of fiery speeches of late Sena founder Bal Thackeray (Uddhav’s father).
The teaser and the posters of the Shinde camp were accompanied with photos of Bal Thackeray and Anand Dighe (Mr. Shinde’s mentor and former Thane strongman) along with that of CM Shinde.
“I do not need to tell you’ll who has forsaken Balasaheb’s ideals and connived to become Chief Minister,” Mr. Shinde said, in a thinly veiled jibe at Uddhav Thackeray.
The teaser released by Mr. Thackeray simply proclaims that “a sea of loyalty” will descend upon Shivaji Park on October 5.