For Sena workers, birthday wishes score over feeding farmers

Roads in Thane are plastered with banners wishing Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde on his birthday, despite his request to his party workers and followers to avoid doing so and send the money to feed starving farmers in the state instead.

If it is forced to choose between sycophancy and feeding hungry farmers, the Shiv Sena seems to prefer — or at least prioritise — the former.

Let them eat cake: Clearly ignoring Shinde’s emotional appeal to help farmers, his followers left no stone unturned to put up illegal hoardings and banners wishing him on his birthday.
Let them eat cake: Clearly ignoring Shinde’s emotional appeal to help farmers, his followers left no stone unturned to put up illegal hoardings and banners wishing him on his birthday.

For, despite Thane Guardian Minister and senior Sena leader Eknath Shinde explicitly asking his party workers and followers to refrain from putting up illegal hoardings and banners for his birthday and, instead, send the money to feed struggling farmers in the state, many parts of Thane district were swamped in illegal hoardings yesterday.

Dripping with love: Hoardings greeting the minister in Thane. Pic/Sameer Markande
Dripping with love: Hoardings greeting the minister in Thane. Pic/Sameer Markande

Sena leaders, however, insisted that the hoardings were just a way for workers to show their affection towards Shinde and claimed that the original plan of sending food to farmers remained unaffected by them.

Appeal
On February 7, two days before his birthday, Shinde had sent out a letter, which was distributed through public fora to his party workers and followers. The letter, released by his media advisor, Chintamani Bhide, said, “Farmers in Maharashtra have been suffering due to unseasonal rainfall and droughts. Farmers are also committing suicide. Though the government is trying to wipe off their tears, we also have a responsibility towards them. Hence, avoid spending on hoardings, banners and bouquets and collect this amount and spend it to distribute food and grain to farmers.”

Clearly ignoring Shinde’s emotional appeal, his followers left no stone unturned to cover as much of Thane district as they could with illegal hoardings and banners wishing him a happy birthday yesterday. Hoardings with greetings from local party men, former and current corporators and other Shinde followers could be seen in several prominent areas like Navghar Toll Naka, Kopri village, Teen Hath Naka flyover, Louis Wadi, Tembhi Naka, Thane Market and the area around Thane railway station, among others.

'Can't curtail love'
When mid-day spoke to Ashok Vaity, a Shiv Sena politician and former Thane mayor, he said that even though the appeal was made, the hoardings were a way of showing the affection of party workers and couldn’t be curtailed. “We work throughout the year for our minister and get only one day to show our love and affection. I understand that it is important to help the farmers, but we can’t help but extend our wishes in the form of hoardings and banners. In the process, we are not ignoring the original order of Shinde and will definitely send support to the needy farmers in form of cash or food supplies,” said Vaity, who was instrumental in putting up the banner at the Teen Hath Naka Bridge and Louis Wadi.

When Vaity was asked about the details of the money or foodgrain he would contribute, he said he would offer money in the form of a cheque and decide on it in the coming days. Eknath Shinde’s son, Dr Shrikant Shinde, who is the Member of Parliament from Kalyan said that though the banners had been put up in various parts of Thane district, the original plan of distributing grain and food supply distribution is still being executed.

“We had released the appeal through e-mails and letters to everybody, but I know that people have still put up hoardings and banners. However, we have also received food supplies from the party men and will execute the original plan of distributing grain and food,” said the younger Shinde, adding that the illegal hoardings would be removed by the end of the day, in accordance with his father’s instructions.

Chintamani Bhide, media advisor to Eknath Shinde, claimed that that though the banners and hoardings had been put up across the city, the number of illegal banners was less and they had not affected the original food distribution plan.

“We have sent multiple trucks full of rice and dal from Dombivli and Bhivandi. Another 8 to 10 trucks will leave by tonight (Monday) from the Thane Shiv Sena office, so putting up hoardings has not impacted the original plan. As far as the legal banners are concerned, people had taken permission for them weeks ago and we had sent the letter just two days back — on February 7 — which is why the banners had been put up,” he said.

TMCspeak
When mid-day spoke to Sanjeev Jaiswal, Municipal Commissioner, Thane, to ask if the illegal hoardings were being pulled down or whether any action would be taken against the people responsible, he said he was in a budget meeting and would not be able to discuss the matter.

Deputy Municipal Commissioner and Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) spokesperson Sandeep Malvi, however, said a plan of action had already been put in place by the municipal commissioner. “We have given strict instructions to workers to take action against the illegal banners. We will check how many of the hoardings and banners greeting Shinde are illegal and take action accordingly,” said Malvi.

'Just for show'
Thane Congress president Balkrishna Purnekar said releasing the letter was just an act by Shinde, who just wanted to show people that he did not want to celebrate his birthday while farmers were committing suicide. “As a socially aware person, if I don’t wish to accept materialistic offerings and instead want to extend support to the farmers, I would make sure that my followers would be aware of my intention well in advance. And the hoardings are a yearly affair. As Eknath’s birthday falls on February 9 and his son’s on February 4, you can see the hoardings for 10 whole days, from February 1-10,” said Purnekar

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