Yuva Sena workers organised a bike rally to prevent Swabhiman Sanghatana from performing an anti-Sena street skit outside Sena Bhawan; in the melee commuters had to twiddle their thumbs in a 2-hr traffic jam
Election fervour was at its farcical best yesterday, with two political scions taking their mutual rivalry to the heart of the city, battling it out on the streets, and sacrificing order and traffic in their parries and blows.
Yuva Sena workers, all on two-wheelers, held up traffic as hapless motorists waited impatiently for the junction to clear outside Sena Bhawan yesterday
Though it wasn't much of a battle as much as a show-stopper and a show-stealer by one at the expense of the other, it did not matter, because it was Mumbaikars who were left to deal with the aftermath of clogged roads and long snarl-ups. Cops simply said they were helpless in the face of such politicos.
Even as the biggies Congress and Sena are involved in a legal tangle, yesterday Bal Thackeray's grandson and Yuva Sena President Aaditya sabotaged the designs of Narayan Rane's son Nitesh of Swabhiman Sanghatana, by preempting his campaign trick.
Nitesh Rane had planned a skit outside Sena Bhawan in Dadar to highlight the graft plaguing the Sena-ruled BMC. The end was to bring the saffron party to shame publicly right outside its stronghold.
Had the skit been acted out, Shiv Sena would have had to engage in some major face-saving. Anticipating the humiliation and the unsavoury press the skit would have attracted, the Sena scion decided to act as well.
The architect of the ambush rally, Yuva Sena President Aaditya Thackeray, flares the victory sign after upstaging Nitesh Rane in front of Sena Bhawan
He took out a bike rally right through the skit, blocking roads and vehicles, leaving Mumbaikars struggling to get past the already busy area. People on lunch breaks, office goers, school buses, and others were all caught in the jam, which took two harrowing hours to dissolve.
Ride n' seek
According to Sena sources, a squad of bikers gathered nearly an hour before the skit was scheduled.
"The skit was planned for 4.30 pm, but Sena supporters gathered before 3.30 pm and hid in the gullies," said a party insider.
The moment Rane's men started gathering at the spot, the saffron flag holders zoomed past them, flooding the streets and shouting slogans, making sure the actors had no audience or platform to perform on.
In the whirl that lasted for half an hour, Rane's supporters had to pack their bags and move to Worli, where they managed to perform the skit. But it just wasn't the same.
For the Sena, it was mission accomplished. Said a gusty Sena leader of the ambush, "We had fully planned it, we can't let anyone do anything they want in front of Sena Bhawan. It's our party office; it's our pride. We had full intentions to show them hospital beds."
In the whirl, traffic was put on hold for two hours, with angry commuters expressing their frustration at being waylaid by the political gimmickry
According to another Sena worker, their youth leader was heard saying 'komdi palali', after Rane and company went away. Reportedly, his grandfather, Thackeray Sr, refers to Narayan Rane as 'komdi chor' during public gatherings.
For his part, Aaditya claimed his party had the event planned nearly two weeks ago. He said, "I don't see anybody as a competitor to my party. I am dedicated to saffron and whatever I do is for the party."
Needless to say, the impulse bike rally that threw cold water on his skit was ill-received by Rane.
"What they tried to do was suppress my voice against the money-laundering in the BMC that they have indulged in for the past 15 years," Rane fumed. "The police had earlier permitted an independent candidate to hold a street play.
But some Shiv Sena men went to his place in the night to threaten him, after which he withdrew his permission. Following the incident, the police told us they would not give us permission to hold the skit, citing public inconvenience.
But we continued our work and held the street play in Worli-BDD chawl. The residents had come out in good numbers." He continued, "Dadar is nobody's private property. I would conduct a street play in 4-5 days, irrespective of however much they try to suppress me.
We would have street plays in other parts of the city as well. The Sena cannot stop us from speaking the truth. They don't have any courage. That is why they take refuge in such cowardly acts."
Deputy Police Commissioner (South) Nandkumar Chaugule said, "I don't know if they took any kind of permission. Such rallies usually create a lot of traffic problems.
We informed additional staff and police bike riders to reach the spot and take necessary measures. We cannot take any action against these politicos if the local police station supports them."
A police official from the Shivaji Park police station said that no permissions were given to either of the parties to conduct any kind of political rally or play.
Public ire was unforgiving after the thwarted skit, the seemingly impromptu rally, and the ensuing commotion. Most commuters lashed out at the rally by abusing the political party responsible for this.
"It is way too frustrating to be stuck in traffic because of stupid political rallies. Citizens are already harrowed because of the everyday traffic and with potholes on the street. As it is, a huge hole is created in our pockets."
A commuter, requesting anonymity
"The area has been in quite a political turmoil because of the war brewing between Shiv Sena and the MNS. And now, these noisy rallies! Already, Shivaji Park which is given out to political parties for events is riddled with garbage, noise and chaos."
Vasant Rane, Dadar resident