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Why Shivaji Park, where Uddhav will take oath, is so important to Shiv Sena & Thackerays

It was Mumbai's Shivaji Park where Sena founder Bal Thackeray addressed first public rally in 1966, Raj Thackeray held first MNS rally & Aaditya took over Yuva Sena.

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New Delhi: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is due to take the oath of office as Chief Minister of Maharashtra at 6.40 pm Thursday after the stalemate over government formation that lasted over a month finally ended earlier this week.

The swearing-in ceremony will take place at Shivaji Park in Mumbai’s Dadar, a location that holds great significance for the Thackerays and the Shiv Sena.

The 28-acre ground first came into existence in 1925-26 as Mahim Park. It was renamed as Shivaji Park — after Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji — in 1927, with the efforts of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation councillor Avantikabai Gokhale. Soon after, a statue of Shivaji was erected there.

The name Shiv Sena literally translates to ‘Army of Shivaji’. The party identifies with the Maratha king. When Shiv Sena came to power for the first time in 1995, it even renamed the international airport, formerly known as Sahar International Airport, as Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The name was further tweaked during the Devendra Fadnavis government in 2017 to add ‘Maharaj’ after ‘Shivaji’, and is now called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.

The park’s Sena history

The Shivaji Park has witnessed several historic moments in the fight for India’s freedom. But for Shiv Sena, it has been the site for the rise of its founder Bal Thackeray.

It was here that Thackeray addressed his first public rally in 1966 — he was apprehensive of holding a rally at such a huge park for fear of failing to fill it up. He frequently held public meetings thereafter.

Bal Thackeray was cremated in a corner of the park in 2012, which the Shiv Sainiks refer to as Shivteerth — a holy place. A memorial was later constructed upon it. A sculpture of Meenatai Thackeray, wife of Balasaheb, rests at one of the park’s entrances.

Manohar Joshi, the first Sainik to become chief minister, took the oath of office here on 14 March 1995. Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya, now an MLA, also took over the Bhartiya Yuva Sena here. And the estranged Thackeray, Raj, Bal Thackeray’s nephew who broke away from the Shiv Sena, held the first rally of his party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, at Shivaji Park.

For the past five decades, the park has also been the choice of location for the Shiv Sena for its annual Dussehra celebrations, where significant politicians across parties, such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pramod Mahajan of the BJP, the socialist George Fernandes, and NCP’s Sharad Pawar have been invited in the past. The Shiv Sena Bhawan is also located close to the park.

It is also cricket mecca for millions of Indians. Cricketing legends Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar, Vijay Manjrekar and Ramakant Desai have trained here.

So Shiv Sainik or not, the park holds great political and personal significance for each Thackeray. It is, therefore, a natural consequence for the first ever Thackeray to swear in as chief minister from the ground.

While preparations are in full swing for the event Thursday, the Bombay High Court has raised security concerns, insisting “holding such functions at a public ground should not become a regular feature”.

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  1. Now time has come when new hGovernment in Mharashtra should rename Shiva ji park as Aurangzeb Bagh in Mumabi.

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