Legislative assembly

Shivaji Park Dussehra rally becomes custody battle for Uddhav and Shinde ‘senas’

A major showdown is brewing between the two factions of the Shiv Sena over who would hold the annual Dussehra gathering at the historical Shivaji Park in Dadar in Mumbai.

Shiv Sena chairman Uddhav Thackeray said on Monday he would speak at the annual Dussehra rally – which falls on October 5 – even though Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s faction plans to hold a large Assembly.

The tradition of addressing an annual rally on Dussehra at Shivaji Park was started in 1966 by Balasaheb Thackeray, just months after he founded the party on June 19, 1966. Balasaheb established himself as an incendiary leader and orator by excellence with the first gathering. .

The ‘Dasara-melava’ in Shivaji Historical Park is a kind of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of Shiv Sainiks who inhabit the ground often known as ‘Shiv-teerth’.

The Shivaji Park venue is, in a way, a symbolic seat of power for the party. The Shiv Sena Bhavan, the party headquarters, is also located near Shivaji Park.

When the first Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government came to power in 1995, Dr. Manohar Joshi was sworn in as Chief Minister of Shivaji Park. In November 2018, Uddhav was also sworn in as Chief Minister of Shivaji Park.

Balasaheb’s rites were performed on the spot, a day after his death on November 17, 2012.

In 2020 and 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown and associated restrictions, the gathering took place virtually or indoors.

This year, however, Uddhav reportedly asked the party to prepare for the Dussehra rally.

In 2020, Uddhav addressed the gathering virtually, while in 2021 it was held at King’s Circle’s Shanmukhananda Hall.

Last week, Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray said his father’s Shiv Sena request for permission for a gathering had not been accepted by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

Uddhav, while addressing Matoshree media, made it clear that he would be speaking from Shivaji Park.

“Let’s not fall prey to the disinformation campaign… let me assure you that Shiv Sena’s annual ‘Dasara-melava’ would be held in Shivaji Park… there is no doubt about it,” he said.

Although Camp Shinde hasn’t called for a gathering yet, they haven’t talked about this issue yet either.

Although Shiv Sena led the BMC for decades, now that elections are scheduled, the BMC is now under the administrative control of the state government.

Ever since the Shiv Sena split – when sitting lawmakers in both the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha chose sides – the Shinde faction has claimed it stands up for Balasaheb’s legacy. To this effect, the faction even submitted documents to the Election Commission of India, claiming their claim to Shiv Sena’s election symbol – a bow and arrow.