Saffron won't be the only colour at Lalbaug
The Shiv Sena, which had dominated the festival for decades, is now facing stiff competition from opponents Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Congress. Naresh Kamath reports.mumbai Updated: Aug 18, 2010 01:45 IST
The erstwhile mill belt of Parel and Lalbaug, the epicentre of the 10-day Ganeshotsav festival will now witness a battle of supremacy among the political parties.
The Shiv Sena, which had dominated the festival for decades, is now facing stiff competition from opponents Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Congress.
Both parties, fresh from electoral success, want to out up a show of strength this time.
The MNS, which successfully wrested the Sewri Assembly seat from the Sena, plans to start a round-the-clock free tea and biscuit centre for devotees at Lalbaug.
"Since all of the Maharashtra descends on Lalbaug, we are eager to show lakhs of devotees that we represent this area," said MNS leader Sanjay Naik.
"The Sena did it for years and now we will do it. What is wrong with that?"
Former Sainik and now MNS legislator Bala Nandgaonkar, who defeated Sena strongman Dagdu Sakpal in the 2009 Assembly polls, agreed that the MNS plans to gain political mileage from this event.
The festival helps local politicians network with the voter base. Several Sena leaders rose up the political ranks starting out as office bearers of local Ganesh mandals.
The festival played an important role in the growth of the saffron outfit.
For the Congress, this Ganesh festival is a chance to reach out to voters from areas such as Worli, Sewri, Parel and Byculla, which were mostly under the Sena but are now part of the Congress' Mumbai South Parliamentary constituency after delimitation.
The Congress has planned install 15 huge gates at the entrances to various mandals and also distribute T-shirts to volunteers.
At least 200 party workers will man the streets and control traffic.
"We have to make the party's presence felt to the masses and our party leaders," said Congress leader Rajesh Hatale.
He said that no party would dare to offend Ganesh mandals.
"Active members of these mandals are affiliated to various political parties. If we offend them, we will face the heat during elections," Hatale added.
The Sena, however, is unperturbed by these developments.
"More than 90 per cent of the mandals are dominated by Shiv Sainiks and everyone knows our strength," said former Sena legislator from Parel, Dagdu Sakpal.
He said the MNS and Congress were indulging in publicity stunts.
"Just erecting hoardings or displaying flags will not make any difference to us because we have been working diligently for years unlike them who have just sprung up," Sakpal said.