The west side of Shivaji park resembled a military camp on Saturday morning as hundreds of Shiv Sainiks, men and women, lined up around the temporary memorial of their late party chief Bal Thackeray.
While there were policemen guarding the site, the Sainiks were prepared to meet any eventuality if there was an attempt to forcibly remove the memorial.
This show of strength and unity by the Shiv Sainiks at Shivaji Park will help the party in the legislature. The Sena has moved a no-confidence motion against the government on the issue of corruption, and the memorial issue will be a negotiating plank that the party will use.
The Sainiks at Shivaji Park were as disciplined as they were during their leader's funeral procession from his home in Bandra to Dadar, where he was cremated on November 18.
On Saturday, there was unlimited supply of bottled mineral water, food packets were distributed to all. The Sainiks disposed off the leftovers in bin bags and makeshift dustbins.
“We will stand in front of the BMC workers if they try to demolish the structure. If Balasaheb gave his whole life for our well-being, sitting here everyday to protect the memorial is a small thing for us,” said Sarita Palande of the women’s wing, who left home at 7am and had come prepared to sit till 9 in the night.
According to senior leaders, this move is a part of their larger plan that will see platoons of people coming to Shivaji Park from all across the state and taking turns to guard the memorial.
“This not a one-day show. We have not come to cause disturbance in the locality. We have come here as soldiers to protect our leader’s identity. All we want is a small monument,” said Jagdish Thorat, a Sainik from Thane, who is part of the first platoon that descended onto Shivaji Park on Saturday.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who was among the first senior leaders to strongly voice his opinion in favour of a memorial said: “In this case the legal books do not stand. The government needs to consider the emotions of people towards the leader and allow it. I am sure there will be some middle way that will be worked out."
Thane district Sena head Eknath Shinde, who has organised the Thane groups to reach the iconic ground in Dadar, said that he was ready to provide as many Sainiks as needed till there is some breakthrough on the issue. “It is our leader Uddhav Thackeray, who will take the final decision on how the samadhi will be built.”