While schoolchildren played cricket at one end of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Park in Dadar on Wednesday, BMC officials and Shiv Sena workers made hectic preparations for the swearing-in ceremony of Uddhav Thackeray, who will take oath as the chief minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi-led government on Thursday, at the other end of the ground, popularly known as Shivaji Park.
The ceremony is expected to be attended by around 80,000 people, including workers of all three parties and around 800 farmers from across Maharashtra. Considered to hold a special significance for the Sena, it was on the Shivaji Park ground that the party had come into existence in 1966 with its core ‘Marathi manoos’ agenda. In 2012, party patriarch Balasaheb Thackeray was also cremated at the ground.
On Thursday, it will be witness to another milestone for the party — the swearing-in ceremony of the first chief minister from the Sena and the Thackeray family. “This is our home ground. All of our joy and sadness is collectively showcased in the events that have been held here,” said Kunal Patil, a Sena worker.
The Balasaheb Thackeray Memorial, party workers said, will form the backdrop to the massive stage that workers will toil through the night to erect ahead of the 6.40 pm ceremony. “It’s a massive stage, which is 340 feet long and 8 feet high. The base itself is 120 by 40 feet,” said Nitin Desai, a Sena leader and a renowned art director.
Desai, who has previously designed stages for many Sena events, said the decor will have elements from the Marathi culture as well.
“We have placed the stage in a manner that the Shivaji mural seems to be blessing the gathering from behind the stage. He is a revered deity of the state and we want the decoration to depict it,” Desai said.
The stage will, however, not have any pictures of Balasaheb. “The event is a government event where multiple parties are coming together. The decor will not have any symbolism… Rather, we want to showcase the beauty, talent and resources of Maharashtra,” he said. Large LED screens have also been put up near the stage.
While teams from the electricity department and Public Works Department, besides BMC officials had started to congregate at the ground from Wednesday morning, Shiv Sainiks from across the city and nearby areas began to pour in in large numbers by evening. “We do organise Dasra melawa (a function to celebrate Dussehra) here every year, but the last big event that we had here was a sad one (cremation of Balasaheb). It is fitting to have a Sena CM take charge from Shivaji Park. He will get the support, strength and love from the grassroots workers,” said Raosaheb Patil, another party worker.
Ajay Jadhaw said he had come to Mumbai from Karad as it “is a win of the Marathi manoos and Marathi asmita. It feels like a dream”. Manish Nikole, a worker from Pen, said he had come with a few friends as he wanted to “see it
For the ceremony, Sena shakhas (branches) from across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region have been told to hire buses to transport party workers to the venue. “We want the event to go as smoothly as possible. The zilla adhyakshas and shakha pramukhs should feel comfortable and not neglected. But nobody has the time to design zones or issue passes as of now,” said Abhijit Patil, a Sena worker who is also a part of the crowd management team. He added, “Police have been making continuous rounds, but unless the basic structure gets ready, they can’t demarcate zones either. The BMC and the police department will have to finish their work once the stage is ready.”
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