This year's Dussehra rally will be a crucial one for the Thackeray family, which is why it was more important than ever for the party that it is held at Shivaji Park.
The party is getting ready to launch the third generation of Thackerays into active politics. The rally will see the launch of Aditya, 20, son of Uddhav Thackeray, the Sena's executive president, through the party's youth wing, the Yuva Sena.
Three generations of the Thackeray family will address Sainiks from one dais for the first time in the party's 44-year history. Bal Thackeray, Sena chief and Aditya's grandfather, will launch the Yuva Sena and pass the baton on to his grandson on the ground where he has been addressing his party workers every year. Thackeray addressed the rally each year, until 2008, when his son, Uddhav, took over.
Aroon Tikekar, political commentator, said the Sena has an emotional and traditional connect with Shivaji Park. "It was here that Bal Thackeray made his fiery speeches, and so did others, who were involved in the Samyukta (unified) Maharashtra movement," Tikekar said. "It will be important for the Sena that Aditya is launched at the ground where his grandfather started off."
The rally is also significant because it precedes the elections to the Kalyan-Dombivli and Kolhapur municipal corporations. The Thackerays are likely to appeal to the Marathi manoos to avoid a division of votes between the Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, led by Thackeray's estranged nephew, Raj.
The MNS severely dented the Sena's prospects in the 2009 General and Assembly polls. The Sena hopes to make use of the senior Thackeray, to retain their votes in Kalyan-Dombivli and Kolhapur.