The Shiv Sena’s rally at the scarcity-hit Jalna city in central Maharashtra on Sunday was perceived as a reassertion of the party’s new chief Uddhav Thackeray, who ventured on his first big political rally following his father Bal Thackeray’s death.
The rally was vital enough for the party to depute almost all of its legislators MPs, MLAs and corporators from Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivli. ‘The rally is going to decide the Sena’s future along with yours’, was the rallying cry used by organisers to mobilise local leaders, and attract mammoth crowds in the Marathwada region. It seems to have succeeded as the party claimed that over three lakh people attended the rally.
“We were specifically instructed to tell our local units that it was going to be a decisive rally that will also seal their future. The party has been facing certain challenges after the death of the senior Thackeray. Poor attendance or any such dampener would have raised questions over the party’s future,” said a party MLA who toured the region and addressed the party’s local units.
“We were told to address meetings of the Sena shakhas in at least two to three assembly constituencies and appeal to them for maximum attendance,” said a corporator from Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation who has been camping in the region for the last 15 days.
Eye on future
According to party sources, Uddhav was tensed over the rally’s triumph and wanted to ensure a high turnout: a poor showing would have cast doubts on his appeal as party chief. As such, he deputed his most trusted lieutenants including Mumbai mayor Sunil Prabhu to tour the region in the days leading up to the rally.
Corporators from the BMC such as Sanjay alias Nana Ambole toured two districts each. MLAs Pratap Sarnaik, Vijay Shivtare, Abhijit Adsul, new deputy leader Gulabrao Patil, Neelam Gorhe, MPs Anandrao Adsul and Anil Desai, and others were given specific tasks.
At the rally, Thackeray lambasted the ruling Congress-NCP combine for its inability to provide drinking water to areas that needed help to cope with a drought-like situation. He attacked Union ministers Sharad Pawar and Sushilkumar Shinde, and even Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and his deputy Ajit Pawar for failing to provide for the citizens.
The rally has given the Sena the fillip and the confidence that it is still in the reckoning among other Opposition parties. The MLA said the rally’s success would also put the brakes on the plans of those ruminating a switchover to the other Sena: the MNS.
Another Sena MLA said, “Today, we are fighting not only with the Congress and the NCP but Raj Thackeray-led MNS as well. Any spanner in the works would have demoralised us. The Sena units in rural areas appear to be in a tizzy where the party’s future is concerned. Our task was to invigorate them to face the challenges.”