When Dussehra rolls around every year, Shiv Sainiks are assured of their leaders addressing them and the city, laying out milestones for the party and preparing them for the year ahead. So important is the Dussehra ‘Melava’ — a 44-year-old tradition — for the party that the late Bal Thackeray had addressed Sainiks through video conferencing for the last time at the rally in 2012, and Aaditya Thackeray had used it as the launch pad for the Yuva Sena in 2010.
Remembering the tiger: Uddhav Thackeray, his wife Rashmi, and senior Sena leader Manohar Joshi perform shastra puja at Bal Thackeray’s memorial yesterday. PIC/PRADEEP DHIVAR
Thus, despite being prepared for the rally not being held this year in view of preparations for the assembly polls, barely 10 days away, Shiv Sainiks could not completely hide their disappointment yesterday.
“It’s election time and we didn’t want to waste our manpower and time by going to court and getting permissions for the Dussehra meet at Shivaji Park,” said senior Sena leader Divakar Raote.
The Sena, which held only a cultural programme and ‘shastra puja’ (weapon worship) at Shivaji Park yesterday, reasons that the party had already held a rally at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse last Saturday, which was addressed by party chief Uddhav Thackeray and served the purpose of being a show of strength.
Sena leaders also said that holding the Dussehra rally would have been difficult considering that most top leaders are busy with election campaigning in their areas.
“We can’t expect all the leaders to drop everything and attend the Dussehra rally. We have very little time left for campaigning. We are already late and have to campaign in 286 seats, unlike the 169 last time. So, we cannot afford to waste a single minute,” said another Sena leader.
However, when mid-day pointed out to Raote that Sainiks saw the rally as more of a cultural event than a political one and not holding it could send the message that politics was important to the party than culture, Raote said, “We took out a Dussehra rally in the morning and also did the shastra puja at Shivaji Park. The event was even attended by Uddhavji and Aaditya. We also held a rally at Borivli in the evening.” Shiv Sena leaders gathered at Shivaji Park in the evening and performed a puja at the Balasaheb Memorial. Supporters from Mumbai and Thane gathered around the memorial, but the ground was relatively empty and bereft of the huge pandal and crowd that it witnesses at Dussehra every year.
The Dussehra Melava of the Shiv Sena has been held every year since the Shiv Sena’s formation on June 19, 1966. The Melava was started by Bal Thackeray. Nearly four years ago, however, after Shivaji Park was declared a silent zone, the party had to rush to the court every time it wanted to hold the rally.
'We'll bury Amit Shah'
Despite the events at Shivaji Park being solemn affairs, a few Shiv Sainiks could not resist taking a dig at their former ally BJP and its party chief Amit Shah. The slogan that seemed to be the most popular was 'Amit Shahla gadun taku' (We will bury Amit Shah).