Setting the tone for his party ahead of what is set to be a keenly contested election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation early next year, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray told a crowd of about 300 party workers on Wednesday evening, “I want to see the saffron flag flutter, at any cost.”
Thackeray, who has been on a tour of Shiv Sena shakhas since earlier this week, received shouts of support in response.
At Shakha No 71, in Andheri East, Thackeray asked whether the ward delimitation exercise would prove to be good for the party. Legislator and Vibhag Pramukh Anil Parab explained to Thackeray how the ward had been split in the delimitation exercise, the areas deleted and those added to the existing ward boundaries. “So, is it good for us,” asked Thackeray. Parab nodded his head in the affirmative.
Since Sunday, Uddhav has been visiting Sena shakhas as promised during his Dusshera rally speech. He has so far visited shakhas in Dahisar, Colaba and Worli. The party president is apparently gauging the mood of party workers ahead of the crucial decision on whether to form a pre-poll alliance with ally Bharatiya Janata Party, with whom Sainiks are currently locked in a war of words over allegations of corruption in the BMC. Shiv Sena’s shakha structure plays a key role in the party’s performance at polls, and is especially important ahead of civic elections. The city’s 227 Sena shakhas, one each for every corporator’s ward, are directly in touch with voters, with some shakha pramukhs considered more powerful than even elected corporators.
Incidentally, Thackeray’s cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray is also holding discussions with party cadre ahead of the civic polls, preparing the ground.
At Shiv Sena Shakha No 71, Sainiks began to gather from 5 pm, though many came rushing after office hours, around 6 pm. More than 300 Sainiks including old-timers, youths and women were present.
As Thackeray arrived, there was a buzz of excitement and jostling to get photos clicked with him.
Acknowledging their enthusiasm, Thackeray stopped briefly to give the cadre a chance to click photographs and shake hands with him.
Thackeray signed the attendance register of the shakha and asked for a copy of the ward maps, existing and post-delimitation.
Besides Parab, Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar, MLA Ramesh Latke and other Sena leaders were present. Thackeray met the deputy shakha pramukhs and other office bearers, and inquired briefly about voters’ registration and key issues in their areas. “Do good work. I want the saffron flag to flutter at any cost,” Thackeray told them. The crowd shouted in unison, “Ho (yes).”
“From December, there will be a lot of political activity. I cannot say much openly now, but you will get my instructions from time to time,” he added.
After a 10-minute visit, he left for the next shakha. To some workers unhappy at not having been able to personally meet their leader, local leaders promised a separate meeting with “saheb” later.