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Shiv Sena comes up with ‘roar of true Hindutva’, to hold mega Mumbai rally to counter BJP, MNS

Shiv Sena's rally Saturday evening will be held at Bandra Kurla Complex grounds in Mumbai. Party expects lakhs to attend event, to be addressed by Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray.

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Mumbai: Amid a tussle with political rivals Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) over whose Hindutva is truer, the Shiv Sena plans to stage a grand show of strength through a mega rally in Mumbai Saturday, packaging it as the “roar of true Hindutva”.

The Shiv Sena has built up the rally through a teaser campaign, which includes a series of messages on how Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the current Sena president, and his son Aaditya Thackeray are no different from party founder Bal Thackeray, and how the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva is “original”.

The rally, where Uddhav has said he plans to “unmask” political rivals peddling a “duplicate” Hindutva ideology, comes at a time when the MNS — his cousin Raj Thackeray’s party — and the BJP have raised the Hindutva pitch a few notches. 

“The onslaught that is going on against the Shiv Sena from the opposition, it is directly against Shiv Sena president Uddhavji Thackeray,” Shiv Sena Member of Legislative Council Manisha Kayande told ThePrint. “We need to reply to these false allegations that the Shiv Sena has gone away from Hindutva and Balasaheb’s ideology just because we are now part of the MVA.”

This comes after both parties took turns last month to accuse the Sena under Uddhav of having “forgotten” the ideals of party founder Bal Thackeray since allying with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress — the Sena’s partners in Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. 

The MNS, an offshoot of the Sena, has been going to great lengths since to highlight the similarities between Bal Thackeray and its own chief Raj — Bal Thackeray’s estranged nephew — and pitch him as the “true heir”.   

Sena’s rally also follows two significant rallies this month, both on 1 May — Raj’s rally in Sena stronghold Aurangabad, where he asked his party to play the Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques to drown out the sound of the Azaan, and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis’s rally in Mumbai, where he claimed no Shiv Sena leader was present at the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

Saturday’s rally is also significant because it sets the tone for major civic elections across Maharashtra, including in Mumbai, later this year. The rally will mark the beginning of the second phase of the party’s ‘Shiv Sampark abhiyan’ — Sena’s outreach programme with voters and karyakartas.

In the first phase, the party’s MPs toured Maharashtra, holding meetings with Sena workers to strengthen the party organisation earlier this year. In the second phase, Uddhav Thackeray is expected to travel across Maharashtra for the party’s expansion, sources in the Sena said. 

Also Read: Loudspeakers & ‘Maha Aartis’ — why temple-mosque politics keeps making a comeback in Maharashtra

Teaser campaign

The Shiv Sena has released a bunch of posters and videos on social media to publicise its upcoming rally, and directly counter the opposition’s criticism that the current Shiv Sena leadership is straying from the ideals of Hindutva icon Bal Thackeray.

The first poster, in which Bal Thackeray is seen holding up his fist, said: “Kharya Hindutva cha hunkar aikayla yeylach pahile (You must come to hear the roar of true Hindutva).”

Similarly, the first video teaser starts with an old speech of Bal Thackeray in which he says he may be the party chief but his true strength is the support of the many Shiv Sainiks, followed by a message saying, “Those who have put their belief in saheb (Bal Thackeray) must come to hear the roar of true Hindutva.”

The second teaser juxtaposes videos of Bal Thackeray with those of his son.

The third teaser starts with a proclamation by Shiv Sainiks that Mumbai belongs to their “saheb” and is not anyone’s “father’s property”. It further juxtaposes both Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray’s images with Bal Thackeray’s, with Uddhav Thackeray’s voice in the background saying: “How to overcome bullying is something that Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray has taught us in the language of Hindutva.”


First public rally in two years

Party sources said this will be for the first time since the 2019 assembly election that Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray will address a public rally.

“Due to the pandemic and Uddhavsaheb’s fragile health, Shiv Sainiks haven’t heard the party president in a public rally since a long time,” a Shiv Sena functionary said. “He only addressed Shiv Sainiks through online briefings or in smaller audiences of not more than 100-200 people at a time. So, there is a lot of curiosity about what Uddhavsaheb will say.”

According to party sources, the Shiv Sena hopes that its rally Saturday evening — to be held at the Bandra Kurla Complex grounds in Mumbai — will draw a crowd of 2-3 lakh from across Maharashtra.

“We have been holding ground-level meetings, and even going door-to-door to mobilise people,” the party functionary said. “A lot of people are also coming to our shakhas. We are trying to get every shakha of the party to get at least 1,000 Shiv Sena workers and loyalists to Saturday’s rally.”

The Shiv Sena’s ‘shakhas’ are the party units lowest in hierarchy and closest to the ground. In Mumbai, the party has one shakha in each of its 227 councillor wards.

The Sena’s ‘Rail Kamgar Sena’ — the party’s outfit for railway employees — has also asked Central Railway to avoid any mega blocks on Mumbai’s suburban lines for repairs and maintenance on the day of the rally.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Sena also ‘settling scores through agencies’? How BMC notices to opponents bear party’s stamp


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