Political parties inside and outside the government did their best to maximise political mileage from the 50th foundation day of Maharashtra on Saturday.
At an event organised by the Shiv Sena, party chief Bal Thackeray appealed to Maharashtrians to vote for the Shiv Sena in the civic polls.
“There are civic polls one year later. Don’t let it go out of our hands. Let the saffron flag fly atop the BMC,” Thackeray said, before Lata Mangeshkar sang a song honouring the state.
Thackeray also said Hindi was not the national language, merely a language of communication, and lamented that Marathi was not getting its due.
The Congress-NCP-led government organised a laser and fireworks show at Marine Drive. The lasers flashed over the iconic Air India building, then formed arcs overhead, with the streetlights switched off to heighten their impact. Fireworks followed, and a mass of hands went up, not by way of salute, but to take pictures on cellphone cameras.
“It was beautiful. What I liked best was that it was so informative — the young generation of today knows so little about the Samyukta Maharashtra movement. At least today, they will have got a bit of an education about the martyrdom that was the price for the forming of the state,” said Pushpa Thakur (61).
Her husband, a long-time resident of the Girgaum neighbourhood, recounted how his family had sheltered wounded protestors during the movement in 1960. “We gave them water in their hour of pain,” he said, adding, “and today’s generation does not know the sacrifices they made for us.”
“This show looks brilliant, it seems to showcase the enthusiasm of the city. Although I think more screens along Marine Drive would have helped,” said Radhika Paul (24), a photography enthusiast.
The Sena claimed nearly 2 lakh attended its BKC event. Thousands of schoolchildren had been brought in 300 BEST buses from across the city to sing at the function. A book of aerial photographs by Uddhav Thackeray was also released.
The Sena chief urged people to speak in Marathi, and said he was sad that Belgaum remained out of Maharashtra. At his request, Mangeshkar — who has stopped performing at public functions — sang the song about Maharashtra that she had sung on May 1, 1960, in the presence of then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, at Shivaji Park, to mark the formation of the state.
(— Inputs from Naresh Kamath, Rajendra Aklekar & Radhika Dhuru)