The Shiv Sena’s annual Dussehra rally, a key event on the party’s calendar since its inception, may spark some fireworks with the BMC this year. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation -- which is ruled by the Sena -- has, for the fourth consecutive time, refused it permission to hold the rally at Dadar’s Shivaji Park ground.
The Sena, however, will knock the doors of the court to strike down the corporation’s decree -- something it has done ever since the Bombay High Court declared the ground a silence zone in 2010.
If it happens, this would be the 46th rally of the Sena, and its first after party founder and patriarch Bal Thackeray’s death last year. Since its foundation, the Sena has been celebrating Dussehra with a rally at the ground. A defining feature of the annual tradition used to be the late supremo’s speech. This year, Dussehra falls on Oct 14.
As per an interim order of the HC in 2010, the park vicinity was declared a silence zone, which puts a limit on the noise that gatherings and events can generate in the area.
The court, however, gave liberty to the government to consider granting relaxation on certain important dates. Last year, the Sena procured the court’s go-ahead to hold its rally at Shivaji Park. But last Saturday, when the party sought the BMC’s nod for this year’s rally, the local ward office snubbed it.
For its part, the BMC said it couldn’t grant permission till it finalises the new policy on playgrounds.
“As per the new policy, we cannot permit any political rally at the ground. Playgrounds should be used only for playing activity,” said Sharadchandra Ughade, assistant municipal commissioner of G-North ward under which Shivaji Park falls. Ughade added that the park area is a silence zone.
Mayor Sunil Prabhu, a Shiv Sainik, said the party would approach the high court to get the approval. “We hope the court allows us to hold the rally on the Shivaji Park ground,” he said.
A long, unbroken tradition
Mumbaikars, whether they dote on the Shiv Sena or bristle at its overbearing clout, will be equally surprised if the party fails to uphold its annual tradition of carrying out a Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park.
The party would always pride itself while stating that its one and only venue for Mumbaikars to come in masses and listen to Sena founder Bal Thackeray was Shivaji Park. After the former party chief’s demise and the BMC’s refusal to give Sena the permission to hold its rally, such an assertion may no longer hold true.
If the Sena is barred, it will be for the first time in the 48 years since the party’s inception that it won’t be able to hold its rally at the same venue. The tradition, which has come to assume ritualistic symbolism, has special significance for Sena aficionados.
The Sena took birth on June 19, 1966 and its first public meeting was held on October 30 that year at Shivaji Park, where the then Sena chief addressed the issue of ‘injustice’. The assembly and the customary speech became an annual fixture, synonymous with the party.
Bal Thackeray, with his fiery oratory, mesmerised the audience, issuing diktats that were loyally adhered to by his followers. Unlike other political gatherings that people have to be persuaded to attend, Sena’s Dussehra rally romped home when it came to numbers as well as impact. The turnover would be spectacular, as was the response.
Only on two occasions in the Sena’s history, the rally did not happen: once in 2009 when a joint rally of Sena-BJP instead of Dussehra rally was held due to the state assembly elections. The second time was in 2006, when Mumbai’s relentless rains forced the party to cancel the rally.
It would be a blow if the Sena were not able to hold its ground this year. As it is, Shiv Sainiks will miss Bal Thackeray, who, incidentally, did not attend the rally last year as well, due to his failing health. His pre-recorded speech was played at Shivaji Park in 2012, weeks after which he passed away.
-- Ravikiran Deshmukh
In 2012, Bombay High Court had allowed Shiv Sena to hold its annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park, five days after BMC denied permission for the event.
Sena had been directed to comply with noise regulations and use distributive sound systems to minimise pollution. It was also instructed to ensure the ground was not damaged in any way and restored to its original condition after the rally.
Civic policy on playground
The BMC has framed certain guidelines on the use of playgrounds and recreational grounds in the city. They have laid down that the BMC would not permit any political rally or function on civic grounds. A circular on the decision was issued on April 19 earlier this year. It states:
>> The grounds can be used only for playing and sporting activities.
>> Apart from that, they can be used for traditional, religious purposes such as events like Ganeshostav, Navratri and Durga Puja, for not more than 30 days including erecting and dismantling of pandals.
>> They can also be used for rallies and events on May 1 (Maharashtra Day), January 26 (Republic Day) and August 15 (Independence Day), days that exempt Shivaji Park, too, from silence zone norms.