With the BMC elections scheduled in six months, the Mumbai BJP seems to be in an aggressive mode to woo different sections of people. The latest are the Sai Baba Bhakt Mandals (organisations comprising devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba) as lakhs of devotees of Sai Baba from Mumbai and Thane undertake a Palki Padyatra (march on foot) to Shirdi in Ahmednagar district during Diwali.
On Wednesday, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar held a meeting at Dadar, flanked by the city’s BJP leaders, including state minister Vidya Thakur, where the representatives of the various Sai Bhakt mandals participated and demanded facilities to ease their journey.
The meeting was also attended by BJP leader and developer Suresh Haware, who heads the Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, who assured all help to the devotees.
According to Shelar, it was part of a social initiative undertaken by the BJP to reach the various sections of the people. “Our party is expanding and people from different sections are joining it. The meeting was an attempt to work out some way to ease the travel of these devotees,” said Shelar. The devotees who walk for at least a week to Shirdi demanded a dedicated walkway, toilets, ambulances, shelters as well as drinking water facilities on their route. The BJP assured that it will take its demand to the state government.
The meeting was attended by at least 60 representatives, who outlined the various problems they face.
The BJP in the last few months, for the first time has jumped head-long in celebrating the Dahi Handi and Ganeshotsava festival with gusto. The party had organised a dahi handi tournament in which 125 teams participated, of which 32 reached the finals. BJP has instructed its ward level workers to make active efforts to reach out to the people through various festivals.
“Dahi handi and Ganeshotsava is no longer a monopoly of a single party,” was a common refrain among the BJP workers, targeting its ally the Shiv Sena.
According to political commentator Prakash Bal, such exercises are aimed at wooing the various sections and the target are the 2017 civic polls. “It is a sort of political mobilisation and the BJP seems to be targeting every section to gather votes,” said Bal.
This time, BJP which for years played a junior partner to the Sena is determined to make a huge mark in the richest civic body in the country. In the 2014 assembly election when the two partners went solo, the BJP bagged more assembly seats than the Sena. This effectively means that BJP will now demand a greater share of BMC seats, which the Sena will never accede. In addition, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray who has been unhappy with the raw deal given to the Sena ministers, has accused the BJP of pursuing the agenda of finishing off the Sena. As such, in the upcoming civic polls, allies will be the main rivals.
Major Navratri mandals sponsored by BJP
Though the Navratri festival seems to be quite low key, the BJP has not spared an opportunity to make its presence felt here too. Major Navratri Mandals have been given sponsorships by the BJP leaders and many of them are even organisers in the event. The festival popular among the Gujaratis in Mumbai has always been a BJP monopoly for years as some of the BJP’s top leaders like Kirit Somaiyya and Manoj Kotak have been at the forefront in the celebration.