The Shiv Sena is on a mission to reclaim Dadar, once the party’s frontier bastion now lost to the breakaway Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. In the 2009 assembly polls, the Sena first lost Dadar (Mahim constituency) to MNS candidate Nitin Sardesai. In the civic polls last year, all six MNS candidates from Dadar-Mahim trumped the Sena to the BMC house.
The scars of the lost battles were deep enough for Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray to express - in his last public speech before he died - that he was distressed the Sena had lost Dadar, the birthplace of the saffron party on June 19, 1966.
In a bid to regain its home turf, Sena has issued a diktat to all its leaders in the Dadar-Mahim belt that no matter what happens, Dadar should be Sena’s in the upcoming assembly polls in 2014. Party president Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday claimed at an event in Dadar that in the elections, the saffron flag would be seen hoisted at Dadar.
It’s not going to be a cakewalk retrieving Dadar. But the Sena is pulling no punches in mounting its mission. A newly-minted project ‘Sena tumchya dari (Sena at your doorstep)’ is the first step in that direction. It mandates that Sena vibhag pramukhs visit all the shakhas in their respective areas: there are seven shakhas and the vibhag pramukh is to visit one shakha every day. Along with local Sena activists, he has also to visit one ward every Sunday to sound out the public’s problems and resolve them.
Dadar vibhag pramukh Sada Sarvankar claims the tide has turned in favour of Sena. “I wouldn’t deny that things weren’t in our favour in last few years. We didn’t get the votes in assembly and BMC polls. But now whenever I go to the shakhas, we have kept a muster, which visitors sign. For the two-three hours I stayed at the shakhas, some 200-400 people visited, saying they made a mistake by not choosing the Sena in the elections and are now repenting it, as the leaders whom they elected never show their faces. It’s not us, instead it’s the public who is now saying that they are going to get Sena back,” said Sarvankar.
Dadar houses the party headquarters Sena Bhawan, and for nearly three decades, politicians elected from Dadar were Shiv Sainiks. However, the last two elections showed that Dadar and Mahim rejected the Sena and chose MNS, headed by Raj Thackeray, once a Sena loyalist. Incidentally, Raj Thackeray also resides in Dadar. His bungalow Krishnakunj is located at Shivaji Park. With the symbolism attached to the area it is not just a political trophy to be acquired but a matter of sentimental cachet for both parties.
The Thackeray trio of Uddhav, wife Rashmi and son Aaditya can be spotted at Dadar every week, propagating party agenda in the area. “Both Aaditya and Uddhavsaheb come to Dadar often. It was Uddhavsaheb who raised the issues affecting the common Dadarkar: from heritage issues to the fight against inflation. They are always there to support us in the various public programmes we undertake regularly. And the common man is also with us. We don’t put up the flags now. It’s the residents of Dadar who raise the flags for us,” said Sarvankar.
No more overtures
Last month, Uddhav Thackeray had extended an olive branch to estranged cousin and MNS chief Raj Thackeray, offering to form an alliance. But after Raj snubbed the offer, Uddhav is in no mood to take the talks any further. A party leader said, “The arms were open, but just for once. Now, never would we call them for an alliance. We have decided that nobody in the party would talk about any alliance with the MNS. Our gesture which was in good faith was disregarded by the other leader. And we have decided that we are capable enough of winning the elections on our own. And we would prove that by winning Dadar.”