They may be allies in the state and at the Centre, but next year’s elections for the country’s richest civic body has got the Shiv Sena bringing to the streets its differences with ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
As the BJP gets ready to celebrate its two-year mark at the state’s helm on October 31, the Sena is preparing to stage its first major protest against the state. The Sena joined hands with the BJP government in December 2014, but has consistently been playing the role of an opposition, even while its ministers sit on treasury benches.
Relations between the parties — at loggerheads even before the 2014 polls — have worsened over the past few months, with the BJP’s aggressive ambitions of expanding in Mumbai, Sena’s home turf.
On Saturday, the Sena will organise a protest march, a march significant not just with the polls in mind, but also because it is the first to be organised under the leadership Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s son, Aaditya and his Yuva Sena. The rally will announce the 26-year-old as a more prominent party leader ahead of the 2017 Mumbai civic polls.
“While Aaditya has addressed a few public rallies in the past, this is the first time he is independently leading a protest. Aaditya will hold the microphone and occupy the stage without his father or any other senior leader. His Yuva Sena will run the show,” said a Shiv Sena functionary said.
The protest march will kick off from Wilson College at Girgaum chowpatty and end with Aaditya’s public address at Islam Gymkhana.
The target? The state government’s inaction on policy issues in the education sector — from pre-school to post-graduation and issues such as the government’s plan to interview parents before granting school admissions, the lack of an effective fee regulation system, ineffective sports policy and the poor state of agriculture universities.
Yuva Sena leaders said they expect 25,000 people, comprising students, parents, teachers, its own cadre and other Sena leaders at the rally.
The ‘KG to PG’ protest march — as the Yuva Sena is calling it — will be the second time in a week where the Sena will openly show its strength, coming as it does close on the heels of the annual Dussehra rally.
At this rally, Uddhav Thackeray aggravated the strain on Sena-BJP ties by daring its ally to walk out of the alliance.
Party workers said the Yuva Sena protest, planned just 15 days ago, is to keep up the Sena’s visibility and intensify the pressure on BJP leaders who have been consistently staging protests against corruption in the Shiv Sena-controlled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
“It is unfortunate that we have to protest against our own government. But despite regularly taking up all these issues with the state education minister, there have been no results, prompting us to highlight these issues in our typical Shiv Sena style,” said Yuva Sena leader Amol Kirtikar.