All roads lead to Shivaji Park for Maha ceremony
A 9,000-feet stage. A 30 feet-tall platform. The background of the stage make in the likeness of the historic Raigad Fort nestled in the Sahyadri ranges and made immortal by legendary Maratha king Shivaji in 1674 when he established his capital here. And giant screens mounted on trucks on the roads that ring the stage.
This is how Shivaji Park, located in the middle-class dominated neighbourhood of Dadar, and close to the Chaityabhoomi, is readying for the grand swearing-in ceremony of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray as Maharashtra’s chief minister on Thursday. Dadar has served as the nerve centre for the sprawling Shiv Sena network for more than four decades. The Sena headquarters, Sena Bhavan, located in the neighbourhood is abuzz with activity.
If all goes to plan, 59-year-old Thackeray will become the first from the powerful family to hold a constitutional post, 43 years after his father, Bal Thackeray, established the Sena and changed the face of India’s financial capital.
The stage for the ceremony is being designed by art director Nitin Desai, who has also installed screens at the back of the stage to broadcast clips from prominent cultural events from across the state during the event.
“We are proud of Uddhav as he has finally fulfilled the promise made to Balasaheb (Uddhav’s father),” said 62-year old Mandir Goad, an activist from Parel.
He said he was happy that the Sena’s former ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had been relegated to the opposition benches.
The sentiment was shared by many residents in the Marathi stronghold that is considered a pocket borough of the Sena. The Dadar-Parel-Lalbaug belt, home to many textile mills that closed in a wave of worker strikes and lockouts in the 80s, has stood by the Sena, and it was in Parel from where the first MLA of the party, Wamanrao Mahadik was elected in 1969.
“It is good that Uddhav is taking over as the chief minister as he is acceptable to all the Sena workers. Anyone else from the Sena would have invited heartburn within the Sena leaders,” said Mahesh Halwai, a resident of Lalbaug.
At Shivaji Park, Sena workers trooped in from all corners of the state, many of them reminiscing the 1995 oath-taking ceremony of Manohar Joshi – the first time a Sena chief minister had taken charge.
“I am lucky to witness this memorable moment after 24 years and we really miss Balasaheb,” said Purshottam Barde, a party worker who hails from Solapur.
It was at Shivaji Park that Shiv Sena founder, Bal Thackeray, was cremated in 2012. Thousands of Shiv Sainiks poured in from across the state to attend the funeral of Uddhav Thackeray’s father on November 18, seven years ago.
Thousands yet may pour again into the historic park on Thursday, which may see the beginning of a new era in Maharashtra politics