Politicians are in overdrive wooing worshippers. The festival, the biggest in the state, sees lakhs visiting Ganesh pandals, providing an ideal opportunity for politicians to appease voters.
This week, supporters of Revenue Minister Narayan Rane clashed with Shiv Sena activists over who should get credit for the introduction of the Sawantwadi Express.
On the inaugural ride itself, thousands travelled to the their native places in the Konkan to celebrate the Ganesh festival. Both parties spotted an opportunity to cash in politically.
Last week, the non-governmental organisation Swabhimaan, headed by Rane’s son Nitesh, warned tourist bus operators against raising ticket prices, a norm during the festive season. “We did not want them to exploit people. They relented by lowering rates,” Nitesh said.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) posted a team at Lalbaug-Parel to prevent eve teasing. “We have noticed many unruly elements teasing women. Our boys will deal with them in our style,” said Chetan Pednekar, vice-president of the MNS’ student wing. The MNS will also have a 24-hour drinking water facility as well as wheelchairs to ferry the old and the physically challenged.
The Sena, which has dominated the event for decades, will provide walkie-talkies to cadres. “This will help us control the crowds and ensure smooth pedestrian movement,” said Nana Ambole, Sena corporator.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kandivli legislator, Yogesh Sagar, flagged off 10 buses carrying 600 people to the Konkan at subsidised rates over the last two days.
Observers said politicians are attempting to publicise themselves. “They want voters to remember their names,” said Nilu Damle, veteran political analyst.