The BJP will organise 370 Dahi Handi programmes across Mumbai Friday, in an apparent show of strength ahead of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections. On the other hand, the Shiv Sena is gearing up to organise the Nishta Dahi Handi, at the junction of Shiv Sena Bhavan near Shivaji Park. The move comes within a week of the BJP taking over Worli’s Jamboree Maidan to celebrate Dahi Handi on a large scale, where the Shiv Sena formerly organised the festival until 2019. Worli in south Mumbai is Sena MLA and Thackeray scion Aaditya Thackeray’s constituency.
Apart from organising 370 Dahi Handi programmes, the BJP has approached 355 mandals in Mumbai and has insured 20,000 govindas for a sum of Rs 10 lakh. This is the first time, the BJP is organising the programme on such a large scale in the city, which has been traditionally associated with the Shiv Sena.
According to political analysts, the BJP is likely to try and penetrate areas that are the strongholds of the Shiv Sena in Mumbai, such as Parel, Worli, Lalbaug, Dadar, and Girgaum. Sanjay Patil, a Mumbai-based political analyst, said: “Since the 1960-70s, the Shiv Sena has managed to penetrate the community by celebrating festivals such as Dahi Handi, Diwali, and Ganpati at the local level. This has helped the party create influence by projecting itself as a party that values the local culture of the people. Such programmes are very popular in central Mumbai, which is Sena’s ‘Gad’ (stronghold), and the Sena did not allow the BJP to penetrate these areas. Now that they are in the Opposition, the BJP will try its best to break the tradition. The Sena, on the other hand, will do everything it can to counter this with a show of strength.”
Several Shiv Sena shakhas across Mumbai are also organising Dahi Handi festivals at the local level. For example, Shakha number 225 in Colaba will continue with its tradition of organising Dahi Handi on a large scale in south Mumbai, Sujata Sanap, local Sena leader and former corporator from the area, said.
A senior Sena leader said, “We had decided to scale down celebrations of festivals in the community, due to the financial aspect. That money should be used for healthcare, education, especially in the middle of the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, two Dahi Handi events will be highlights in Thane, one organised by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s son and MP Shrikant Shinde at Tembhi Naka and another by Thackeray family loyalist and MP Rajan Vichare at Jambhali Naka. The Tembhi Naka Dahi Handi was started by late Shiv Sena strongman Aanand Dighe. After his demise, CM Shinde continued the tradition and this year his son will helm the event. Vichare’s Dahi Handi event will be held at Jambhali Naka, which is a kilometre away from Shinde’s Handi event.