With the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) squabbling over the beautification of Shivaji Park, Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Friday made it a point to visit the ground to send a message that he was firmly behind son Uddhav, who is the Sena’s executive president.
The MNS has opposed the Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) decision to put up murals as part of the park’s beautification. The MNS took up the issue after local residents objected to the additional construction on the ground. The dispute was taken to the Bombay High Court that stayed the work. On Thursday, it allowed a function at the venue on the occasion of Maharashtra’s golden jubilee.
The Sena and the MNS are also fighting a battle of one-upmanship over Maharashtra’s golden jubilee. While the Sena has organised a mega musical concert with Lata Mangeshkar and Bollywood stars on Saturday (Maharashtra Day), the MNS has roped in cricketers, including Sachin Tendulkar, for its functions.
The last time Thackeray made a public appearance was in November 2009 when he met MLAs of his party at Sena Bhavan after a gap of two years.
After the party’s electoral reverses last year, Thackeray has once again become active in the party functioning.
The BMC elections are scheduled in February 2012 and with an aggressive alternative like the MNS gaining ground, the Sena is feeling the heat. The elections are crucial for both parties. It was the civic bodies in Thane and Mumbai that helped the Sena grow and the Sena stands to lose its base if it loses the 2012 civic elections.
Earlier, Thackeray inaugurated an art gallery themed on the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement that was aimed at creating a state of Marathi-speaking people with Mumbai as its capital. A nostalgic Thackeray posed for pictures and said the gallery should be seen as a “connect” between the old and the new generations.
Thackeray arrived at the venue near Shivaji Park swimming pool in a Mercedes, amid firecrackers and accompanied by his personal physician Dr Jaleel Parkar, Uddhav and daughter-in-law Rashmi. A golf cart was kept ready to drive him around the gallery. Thackeray, dressed in saffron and looking healthy, was helped into the cart by Parkar.
The two-floor gallery has more than 30 paintings and a photographic depiction of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement.
“Just keeping two wreaths at the Hutatma Chowk memorial is not observing Maharashtra Day. It is about educating the next generation of its significance. This art gallery does that” Thackeray said.
Joshi does Phd on Sena
Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi was on Friday awarded a doctorate on the Shiv Sena by Mumbai University. Joshi’s thesis was on the Sena’s birth, its growth and its future. When asked in a lighter vein about his guide being a non-Maharashtrian, Joshi insisted his guide was half-Maharastrian. “He is a Tamilian married to a Maharashtrian. But there are very few people who have such knowledge of the party,” he said.