Bombay HC order in Uddhav Thackeray’s favour a huge morale booster for his faction

The court allowed his faction of the Shiv Sena to hold its annual Dussehra rally at the iconic Shivaji Park in Mumbai on October 5, rejecting the breakaway Eknath Shinde group’s claim for the same

Bombay HC order in Uddhav Thackeray’s favour a huge morale booster for his faction

Sujata Anandan / Mumbai

Uddhav Thackeray seems to have landed on his feet again as the Bombay High Court allowed his faction of the Shiv Sena to hold its annual Dussehra rally at the iconic Shivaji Park in Mumbai on October 5 this year.

The victory is a clear morale booster to Thackeray and his supporters who have been battling the breakaway Eknath Shinde group for legitimacy since June this year.

Thackeray has filed a petition in the Supreme Court for derecognition of MLAs allying with Shinde but in the absence of that ruling, today's Bombay High Court decision virtually gives legitimacy to the Uddhav-led Shiv Sena as the original party. 

The court rejected the intervention by the Shinde faction’s Sada Sarvankar saying it was not concerned with the political slugfest between the two groups and awarded Uddhav the permission on grounds of right of practice.

The Shiv Sena, founded by Uddhav’s father Bal Thackeray, has been holding its annual Dussehra Melawa (Dussehra Milan or meet) at Shivaji Park since 1966. However in the early decade of this century, the Bombay High Court had forbidden non-sports activities at Shivaji Park (it is a popular ground for cricket practice) and barred political parties from routinely appropriating the ground for their shows of strength.

But later, on protest from political parties, the High Court agreed to hear petitions for permissions on a case by case basis and allowed 45 days to the people of the city to hold non-sports events at Shivaji Park, including political rallies, every year. 

For four years before Bal Thackeray’s death, the Shiv Sena had sought and received such permission. Thackeray’s funeral, a huge affair in 2012, wherein nearly two lakh people had congregated in Bombay and packed out all the surrounding streets too had been held at Shivaji Park which had been an indelible part of the Shiv Sena’s birth and growth through events including election rallies at this park.

However, later, the Prithviraj Chavan-led Congress government in Maharashtra had denied the Shiv Sena permission to set up a memorial for Bal Thackeray at the corner where he was cremated in the ground. The memorial was later shifted permanently to the Mumbai mayor’s bungalow opposite it at the suggestion of then Union minister Sharad Pawar.

The incoming Devendra Fadnavis government had endorsed that proposal and allocated annual funds for the memorial in a bid to rebuild ties with the Shiv Sena after breaking their 25-year old alliance in 2014.

In 2016, the government had directed Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to allow the Dussehra Melawas routinely each year on application for permission. It was Fadnavis's olive branch in an attempt to keep its ally pacified and content with the alliance. 

It was this very directive that was today evoked in defence of the rally and a division bench of Justices R. D. Dhanuka and Kamal Khata rejected the BMC case that there could be clashes between the two factions that might create a law and order situation.

The BMC’s act of rejection seemed motivated as they had sat on the Shiv Sena application for nearly ten days while rejecting it within two hours of a similar application by Sarvankar on behalf of the Shinde group.

Although the Shiv Sena has been ruling the corporation, currently with the body dissolved on attaining full term and fresh elections overdue, an administrator, the former municipal commissioner who is answerable to the government, is running its affairs.

So it was no surprise that the Thackeray application was rejected along with the Shinde application in the interest of seeming fair and even-handed.

However, the court was not convinced by the BMC’s decision or the police apprehension that there could be clashes given that there never had been violence in or around the park for six decades of yearly Dussehra rallies. 

 Politically, the court’s decision is likely to strengthen Uddhav Thackeray’s bid for legitimacy among Shiv Sena supporters and comes as a slap in the face of the Shinde faction. 

Earlier, the Shinde group had been given permission to hold their first Dussehra rally at the BKC grounds in the suburb of Bandra where most political rallies have shifted in view of the curtailment on Shivaji Park by the High Court.

However, Uddhav had been reiterating for nearly a month that with or without permission, he would hold his rally at Shivaji Park and that he had already activated all the shakhas around the state to congregate at the park on Vijaya Dashmi.

The latest assertion came barely two days ago on Wednesday when Uddhav had addressed a rally of gat pramukhs wherein he had torn Shinde apart with a mix of sarcasm and abuse. 

“We had heard of gangs kidnapping children, but this is the first time a child (aulaad) appears to be attempting a kidnap of the father,” he had said in reference to Shinde declaring his party as the Shiv Sena Bal Thackeray party.

He did not spare Union home minister Amit Shah either. Shah during his Mumbai visit for Ganpati darshan had called upon his party workers to teach Uddhav Thackeray a lesson for betraying their alliance.

“There are a lot of jackals (geedarh) wandering Maharashtra these days and Shah is one of them,” he had said in the style of his late father that is being sorely missed by the Shiv Sainiks. 

Uddhav has taken to referring to the Shinde group as the ‘minde' group (rhyming with Shinde) – roughly translating into Hindi/Urdu as ‘ehsaan faramosh’ or traitorous. 

Shinde, camping in New Delhi for the past few days, had replied in kind. “We know who is ‘minde’ who broke with the BJP to ally with the Congress and NCP. Calling us as father-abductors? We will show them who their real fathers are,” he said.

Clearly, today’s moral victory on the legal grounds of right to continuity is an acknowledgement that the son is the father’s legitimate political heir.

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    Published: 23 Sep 2022, 9:30 PM