Amid the bitter sabre-rattling of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction and the rival Eknath Shinde faction over the conduct of the annual Dussehra rally in Dadar’s Shivaji Park, Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday clarified that the Maharashtra government had not “blocked” any grounds for the rally as being claimed by the Uddhav faction.
“The government has not blocked any ground for Dussehra gathering. If it is within the rules, the ground will be given to them [Uddhav camp],” said Mr. Fadnavis.
Earlier, Aaditya Thackeray and other leaders of the Uddhav faction had alleged that the new Shinde-Fadnavis government [Sena (Shinde faction) -BJP coalition] was deliberately denying them access to the Shivaji Park grounds for the Dussehra rally slated for October 5.
Commenting on the allegations, Mr. Fadnavis said these were “the despairing cries of someone [Uddhav Thackeray] who has lost power.”
While the annual Dussehra rally held at Dadar’s Shivaji Park has always been inextricably associated with the Thackeray family, 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 rally as it had ‘forsaken’ Hindutva ideals with its alliance with the ideologically opposed NCP and Congress.
On his part, Mr. Thackeray – the former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president – has asserted that he would hold the rally at ‘Shivtirth’ (as the Sena calls Shivaji Park) come what may, despite his “detractors’ efforts to sow confusion”.
The custom of the rally was begun by Mr. Thackeray’s father, the late Sena founder Bal Thackeray, who had used the occasion to galvanise the party cadre with his trademark fiery speeches.
More switchovers in the making
While Uddhav Thackeray has been continuing with this tradition since Bal Thackeray’s demise in 2012, Mr. Shinde’s revolt — which saw the majority of Sena MLAs and MPs deserting Uddhav for Mr. Shinde — and the ongoing ‘legitimacy’ struggles within the party have cast an urgent question mark over which faction has the right to hold the rally.
Meanwhile, according to sources, the Shinde faction is planning to give another jolt to the embattled Uddhav camp ahead of the Dussehra festivities, with one more MP, two MLAs and a number of corporators expected to switch sides to the Shinde camp.
The grapevine has it that veteran Sena warhorse Gajanan Kirtikar, the MP from Mumbai Northwest constituency, is highly likely to move over to Mr. Shinde’s side.
Mr. Shinde and Mr. Kirtikar have been in touch after the former’s accession to power two months ago. Soon after he became CM, Mr. Shinde had visited the septuagenarian who was then recovering from an illness.
On Tuesday, Mr. Kirtikar visited Mr. Shinde’s official residence for Ganesh darshan, sparking a buzz about him leaving Mr. Thackeray’s side.
Sources say that if Mr. Kirtikar does go over to the Shinde camp, his presence would greatly benefit the latter in its ongoing legal battle as well as in the upcoming BMC poll.