The game is on. As Dussehra dawns on Wednesday, Mumbai is bracing for a mega showdown between two Senas via the stormtroopers they have rallied.
And so far, the script is running as per plan, with both the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena and its Eknath Shinde-led counterpart promising mobilisation of lakhs of people from across the state. It may just be a battle of optics but both sides realise the milestone the Dussehra celebrations mean in establishing who is the true inheritor of the political legacy of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray – as well as the rightful claimant of the ‘Bow and Arrow’ party symbol, an issue pending with the Election Commission.
While the Shinde faction is claiming an assembly of around four lakh at its venue, the BKC Complex, the Uddhav Sena has promised that the Shivaji Park ground – the party’s traditional Dussehra rally venue — will overflow with its supporters.
Since the inception of the Sena in 1966, when Dussehra was established as a major event in the party calendar, it is the first time that the party will see two rallies both claiming it to be real Shiv Sena and having legacy of Bal Thackeray and using the poll symbol bow and arrow and sena logo of roaring tiger face.*
The speeches by both Uddhav and Shinde are likely to start around 8 pm, after a ‘shastra puja (prayer to the weapons)’ and addresses by other leaders. Sources said MLA and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray may give his first Dussehra Day address at the Uddhav Sena event.
MLC Anil Parab, who is an Uddhav loyalist, stressed that the outpouring of support for their rally was natural. “It is our cultural gathering and not a staged event,” he said.
Shinde is expected to unveil a new flag of the party and release a song to counter one being promoted by the Uddhav Sena and produced by Marathi singer Avdhut Gupte. The flag, sources said, will have images of Bal Thackeray and late Sena leader and Shinde’s mentor Anand Dighe.
Another attraction at the Shinde rally will be the 50-ft long sword displayed at the BKC ground, for the shastra pujan.
Apart from the 50 ft long sword, in Shinde faction’s rally, there would be a musical and cultural event depicting culture of maharashtra including historical events from the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to attract the gathering.
Apart from attacking the rival faction, the main focus of the speeches on both sides is set to be the coming BMC elections, which will be the next big battleground between the two Senas.
Uddhav and Shinde both are likely to stress on Hindutva and being true followers of Bal Thackeray’s ideologies during their speeches.
A senior leader from Uddhav sena said, Uddhav is likely to hit out at BJP too who the party suspects has engineered the split in the party and trying to finish the party.
Through videos and teasers, the Shinde faction has been targeting the Uddhav Sena in the lead-up to Dussehra. One such teaser released by it on Tuesday said: “This (the Shinde faction’s rally) is a rally to take forward the Hindutva’s chariot, a rally for teaching lessons to those who have forgotten the ideology. This is not a rally belonging to any family but this is the rally of Sena founder Balasaheb’s thoughts.”
Late on Tuesday night, Aaditya visited the Shivaji Park grounds to take stock of the rally preparations, after making a round of the memorial of Bal Thackeray.