The saffron combine launched its election campaign on Monday in Vikhroli — the eastern suburb where Raj Thackeray’s led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) began its considerably successful sons-of-the-soil campaign.
Addressing a rain-soaked crowd at a chowk named after his deceased brother Bindu Madhav, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray made an emotional appeal to voters, saying they should vote for the party in large numbers keeping in view Shiv Sena chief’s Bal Thackeray’s sacrifices throughout his life for the people of Maharashtra.
“It is time to pay him back,” Uddhav said. “Time to show him the Sainiks are for real.”
The ailing Sena chief is unable to campaign due to ill health and was not at the rally.
This is the first Assembly election in three decades that will have Thackeray Senior missing from the campaign trail, leaving the sole responsibility for success — or failure — on the largely inexperience shoulders of son and political heir Uddhav.
Uddhav, meanwhile, faces the dual challenge of beating the Congress-NCP combine and combating the influence of his rather-more-charming nephew Raj.
At the first rally in the new Vikhroli Assembly constituency — the constituency map has been recently redrawn in keeping with the updated Census 2001 figures — Uddhav said the government had failed on every front, including farmer suicides, inflation and the looming power crisis.
He added that this election was a “freedom struggle” to rid Maharashtra of the corrupt politicians of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
“They have been using the British policy of divide and rule to split the Marathi vote,” he said.
Former deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde, state BJP president Nitin Gadkari and several party candidates were also present at the rally.
And, in another first, a bust of Dalit icon Babasaheb Ambedkar was placed alongside one of Maratha warrior-king Shivaji statue on the dais.