Praising the Shiv Sainiks for maintaining peace during the funeral of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Sunday, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, however, claimed that the large gathering did not indicate an increasing support to Sena or pose a threat to Congress’s poll prospects.
During an informal chat with the media on Monday, Chavan said: “You are free to interpret the gathering in your own way. But I would say that such events are not associated with any electoral politics. People had come there to pay their last respects to the leader they loved.”
The CM said several leaders from various parties were present at the funeral. “Does this mean that they too joined or supported the Sena?”
Chavan said elections would decide the political might of parties, and not such sombre events.
Sources close to the CM said the government doubted the exorbitant figures of public attendance given by the Sena leaders. “We officially know that around five lakh people attended the last rites. We are wondering who estimated the 19 lakh figure?” said a senior bureaucrat, requesting anonymity.
Chavan, however, praised Sena leaders and Sainiks for not disturbing the law and order in the state, and in Mumbai. “The state gave permission to conduct the last rites at Shivaji Park on the condition that the crowd would not create any trouble. I’m happy that the Sainiks lived up to expectation,” he said.
Chavan also applauded the city police for their work in the past week. “They [police] ensured that no untoward incident took place across the state. I appreciate them for the job well done.”