At BKC rally, Uddhav likely to hit back at opponents over Hindutva, kick off poll campaign

Published on May 14, 2022 12:01 AM IST

Amid the raging ideological battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), chief minister Uddhav Thackeray will address a public rally in the city on Saturday evening which is touted as the “roar of the true Hindutva”

Preparations under way for the Shiv Sena rally at MMRDA Ground in Bandra Kurla Complex on Friday. Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo
Preparations under way for the Shiv Sena rally at MMRDA Ground in Bandra Kurla Complex on Friday. Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo
By, Mumbai

Amid the raging ideological battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), chief minister Uddhav Thackeray will address a public rally in the city on Saturday evening which is touted as the “roar of the true Hindutva”. The Sena chief is likely to sound the bugle for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections and is expected to put up a show of strength in the party bastion.

This will be Thackeray’s first major rally after he became chief minister in November 2019. Though he addressed party gatherings, including Dussehra rallies, they were either in virtual mode or before a crowd of around 100-200 party workers and key functionaries.

The CM, during the rally at MMRDA Ground in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) is expected to respond to the attacks on Sena by BJP and MNS over Hindutva.

Thackeray, while inaugurating BMC’s ‘Water for all’ programme last week, had said that he would “unmask” his political opponents at his Saturday address. Senior Sena leader and transport minister Anil Parab said, “Like he said, many masks will be ripped off in his speech. He will speak on issues like Hindutva, development, and governance.”

The rally comes in the backdrop of three rallies by MNS chief Raj Thackeray since April 2, where he raked the loudspeaker issue. Besides taking on Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, MNS has targeted Sena for “forgetting” the ideals of party founder Bal Thackeray. It has also projected Raj as the ideological heir of the Sena patriarch.

On May 4, Raj tweeted a video clip of Bal Thackeray where he is heard saying that Sena, when it comes to power in the state, will not rest until it is successful in preventing people from offering namaz on the roads. He is also heard saying, “Religion must be such that it should not come in the way of the nation’s progress, people must not be inconvenienced by it. If my Hindu religion is causing inconvenience to anybody, they should come to me, and we will resolve it... Loudspeakers will come down.”

Raj also attacked his estranged cousin Uddhav and questioned if he would walk the line of his late father, who opposed loudspeakers, or follow the political ideology of Pawar?

Leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis targeted Sena and the chief minister in his ‘booster dose’ rally on May 1. The BJP leader said he was present when Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992. Other BJP leaders dared Sena to prove if its party workers were there during the demolition to substantiate its claim of playing an active role in the act.

The tug of war over the claims of ‘true torchbearers of Hindutva’ has heated up in the state since Raj Thackeray’s rally on April 2. Both BJP and MNS have been alleging that Sena has deviated from Hindutva since it joined hands with the NCP and Congress to form government in November 2019.

BJP has planned a public rally to be addressed by Fadnavis on May 15, where he is expected to respond to Thackeray’s attack.

In the run-up to the BKC rally, Sena has been releasing teasers with video clips of Bal Thackeray and Uddhav for the last few days. In one such clip, Bal Thackeray is heard saying he is the Sena ‘pramukh’ because of the support of Shiv Sainiks, while another teaser carried Bal Thackeray’s famous speech opener greeting to all “Hindu brothers and sisters”. The teaser also says Shiv Sainiks will “see and hear real Hindutva” at the rally.

Sena is planning a show of strength at BKC. Parab, who is organising the rally, said the ground’s capacity was around 1.5 lakh people, and Sena had only invited party workers from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The Sena chief is also slated to hold a public rally in Aurangabad on June 8. On January 23, 2020, the CM had participated in the celebrations held on the birth anniversary of Bal Thackeray at the MMRDA Ground in BKC.

Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said Thackeray’s rally would boost the party cadre. “Given the political atmosphere over Hindutva, the rally is as important as the Dussehra rally for the Shiv Sainiks. It is a political rally as well as a rally for the cadre as they [cadre] are waiting for directions from the party chief. This is also a dress rehearsal for the municipal corporation elections.”

Sena is also going to kick off its Shiv Samvad Abhiyan, an outreach programme, at the rally. After Vidarbha and Marathwada, the Abhiyan will be for Mumbai, and districts in North Maharashtra, Western Maharashtra, and Konkan region. A senior Sena functionary said the party MPs would start a tour of North Maharashtra, Western Maharashtra, and Konkan region on May 25.

Independent MP from Amravati Navneet Rana and her MLA husband Ravi Rana have announced to perform maha aarti and chant Hanuman Chalisa at a Hanuman temple in Delhi on the day of Thackeray’s rally.

Traffic diversions

The Mumbai traffic police have announced several diversions and restrictions on vehicular movement in view of the rally at BKC on Saturday.

“Several party workers are likely to gather for the rally which will affect the traffic. For the smooth functioning of the traffic and streamlining the VIP movement, vehicles coming from Worli Sea Link will be diverted through Bharat Nagar Junction towards Kurla,” a police official said.

Traffic will not be allowed from Sant Dnyaneshwar Nagar towards Kurla through Bharat Nagar Junction. Similarly, vehicles will not be allowed from Kherwadi Government Colony, Kanakiya Palace, UTI Tower, and Chunabhatti towards Kurla.

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