A sign put up outside the Shivaji Park ground with words clearly stating silence zone is not going down well with political parties,weeks ahead of the civic elections due on February 16. For the first time in the past many decades,parties will not get a chance to hold rallies here,with the Shiv Sena especially eager to have their traditional show of strength here. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recently notified the ground as a silence zone.
Parties are now considering approaching the Bombay High Court seeking permission to hold rallies as a part of election campaigning during the first and second week of February. Shiv Sena leader and former MLC Anil Parab said the party is likely to ask for permission to hold rallies on the ground. Sena has been holding the Dusshera rally here for 40 years and last September the court allowed us to hold the rally after we approached them for a days exemption. Similarly,we might ask for a similar exemption for campaigning too, he said.
Even as the Bombay High Court had first directed the BMC and the state to jointly demarcate Shivaji Park as a silence zone in May 2010,the civic body only recently put up the board outside the ground. Both the state environment department and former BMC chief Swadheen Kshatriya had asked the court to reconsider the decision or relax norms considering the practical limitations of declaring all areas within the city,which have schools or hospitals in a periphery of 100 metres,as silence zones.
However,the court did not change its judgment. It had said that programmes can be held in Shivaji Park on Maharashtra Day,Republic Day and Ambedkar Jayanti on December 6,considering the importance of the events. The state government also has the liberty to consider granting relaxation on days of importance.
MNS MLA from the area Nitin Sardesai said the party will ask the HC for an exemption to its ruling. There are grounds like the BKC ground or Azad Maidan,but it can not be the same in these places as it is far off compared to Shivaji Park. Moreover,this ground has a history and we would not want to be prohibited from holding rallies there. We will ask the court to relax the norms for a few days before elections, he said.
Besides being a venue for gatherings of freedom fighters in British India,Shivaji Park was also important during the Samyukta Maharashtra movement. Shivaji Park has been integral to the political gatherings of Sena and has witnessed numerous political rallies of other parties too. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar,Congress chief Sonia Gandhi are among those who have held large rallies on this ground. Situated in Dadar,largely inhabited by Maharashtrians,the ground has been instrumental in attracting the support of local masses.
An NGO had filed a petition in 2010 stating that the ground is reserved as a playground and therefore the BMC should not allow it for commercial,social and political uses. Moreover,considering its proximity to schools and hospitals,the NGO had also asked for it to be marked as a silence zone.