Uddhav talks to empty chairs at Mahayuti rally

Political pundits say rival parties may have gone all out to sabotage event as undecided voters often go by response to last-day rallies.

The public rally held yesterday by the Mahayuti, an alliance of Shiv Sena, BJP and RPI-A, did not see much of a turnout at the Mutha riverbed venue in Shivaji Nagar. Even the presence of Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray for the civic poll campaign event failed to attract crowds, making many wonder whether the alliance was losing its popularity.

Where is the crowd? Empty chairs at a public rally orgainsed by
Mahayuti in Shivajinagar yesterday.

Political experts, though, attributed the phenomenon to rival parties going all-out to ensure a low turnout at the Mahayuti rally to create a feeling among voters that the alliance was fighting a losing battle. Some experts, who did not wish to be named, said parties often offer more money to agents who facilitate crowds at political rallies so that they do not do their job.

Leader of Opposition in Vidhan Parishad Vinod Tawde, RPI(A) leader
Ramdas Athavale and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray.
Pics/Krunal Gosavi

Uddhav Thackeray addresses the audience. Pics/Krunal Gosavi

Prakash Pawar, a political expert who specialises in civic elections, said: "The rival parties have decided to end the existence of the Sena in the city and it is their tactic to make the Mahayuti rally unsuccessful. Voters who are not yet decided are known to take decisions on the basis of the last-day response to parties' political rallies. A low attendance at a rally may change their view about a particular political party." Yesterday was the last day of campaigning for Thursday's civic election and all parties had brought on their heavyweights.

The chief speaker at the Mahayuti rally was Thackeray, who came for the first time to the city to campaign for the civic election, and he had to witness empty chairs on the occasion. NCP city unit chief Ankush Kakade denied the party had in any way come in the way of the Shiv Sena as his workers and leaders were busy with their own campaigning. "The lacklustre event and vacant chairs spread intermittently throughout the pandal were proof that Thackeray has lost his charisma in Pune," Kakade said.

Congress city unit chief Abhay Chhajed said it was "totally wrong" to say that the party had hijacked the agents who provide crowd for public rallies. "Sena should accept that it's losing hold over from the city," Chhajed said.

Shiv Sena city unit chief Nana Wadekar blamed the timing of the rally for the low turnout. "As it was the last day of campaigning, party workers were busy in the canvassing in their respective areas. Also, the public rally was organised at the odd hour of noon, which made people stay away from the event," Wadekar said. Shiv Sena insiders said the main reason behind the low-key affair was disappointment over the issue of distribution of tickets for the election.

"The riverbed where the rally was organised has a huge seating capacity, but not more than 500 people were present for the event," a Shiv Sena source said. The insider added that alliance partner RPI had brought its workers for the rally, which saved it from becoming a complete flop.

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