Shinde to sit in new party office close to Sena Bhavan; stunt to divert attention, say Shiv Sainiks

Sena Bhavan is a slice of history that can never be replicated by the Shinde camp, no matter how grand a building they might construct, Shiv Sainiks said

Sena Bhavan
Sena Bhavan

Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

In a new twist to the ongoing political power game in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde and his camp have now reportedly decided to develop a new party office near the Sena Bhavan in Dadar.

The new ‘Prati Sena Bhavan’ will be developed by rebel MLA Sada Sarvankar, with CM Shinde sitting there to resolve the issues of people, say sources.

It is not clear from where they will acquire land in the extremely crowded Dadar area unless they acquire an existing building and redevelop the site. Such a move, however, is likely to rub people in this middle-class Maharashtrian area the wrong way if they are forced to exit their homes and offices to make way for Shinde’s new project.

It may be recalled that the Shinde faction desperately tried to seize hold of buildings, memorials, landmarks and offices associated with Bal Thackeray's Shiv Sena. However, former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray who is now the Shiv Sena pramukh in his father's stead, put up an equally bitter fight, and indeed, after the initial shock of the rebellion, went on to gain momentum and traction amongst loyal Shiv Sainiks.

If the Shinde group were to try to forcibly take over Sena Bhavan built by Bal Thackeray, it could trigger a virtual blood bath on the streets. Hence the change of tactics and the attempt to reduce the stature of the original Sena Bhavan, which is a major landmark in Dadar and the heart of Shiv Sena's activities over the decades, by developing a new office.

The original Sena Bhavan is located near the iconic Shivaji Park from where Bal Thackeray addressed most of his meetings and rallies and where the first gathering spilled over in 1966. The three-storeyed Sena Bhavan was constructed in the early 1970s after the site was selected by Bal Thackeray himself.

Shiv Sainiks have millions of memories associated with Sena Bhavan and Balasaheb Thackeray. The first distribution of 'Diwali faral' (sweets and savouries) at discounted prices was started from here. It has how become a tradition across Mumbai greatly looked forward to by the poor who cannot afford high prices during festivities.

The presence of the Marathi manoos in the state looms large in Sena Bhavan even today.

The Shinde camp’s talk of a new party office in Dadar in proximity to their own Sena Bhavan is being seen by the Shiv Sainiks as a mere stunt to divert attention instead of focusing on issues which are crucial to the state. The Shinde government inducted ministers after 40 days but portfolios have still not been allotted.

Meanwhile, torrential rains have destroyed roads and crops of farmers and no one knows who to look to in order to seek help.

Kishori Pednekar, former Mayor of Mumbai, said, "Many political parties in the past had chosen offices near the Sena Bhavan but all of them failed to lure people. Their offices closed down as they chose to challenge the Sena Bhavan with personal motives, whereas Sena has always stood up for social causes. We really don’t want to even acknowledge these mushroom-like parties. They can replicate buildings, but it is impossible to gain the confidence and affection of the people.”

The iconic status of Sena Bhavan

In the late 1970s, there was a Bhavani Sahkari Bank and Bhartiya Kamgar Sena (BKS) union office at the site of the Sena Bhavan. Late Bal Thackeray used to witness hustle and bustle in the building every day. Due to the union office, workers and people were in and out of the building day and night.

Thus grew the idea of a dedicated Sena Bhavan after discussions with his close associates Wamanrao Mahadik, Dattaji Nalawade, Pramod Navalkar, Sudhir Joshi, and Manohar Joshi, all of whom ended up as ministers in the first Shiv Sena government with Manohar Joshi as chief minister. In fact, that announcement was made from Sena Bhavan.

When Bal Thackeray found there was a huge turnout of people at Sena Bhavan, he set up shakhas all over Mumbai where people could bring local problems to their area leaders.

The first evocative Shiv Sena slogan, 'bajao pungi, bhagao lungi' against South Indians and the radical campaign against the inpouring of migrant workers from South India, Gujarat and later North India was launched from Sena Bhavan.

Due to its political importance, Sena Bhavan was targeted by terrorists during the serial bomb blasts of 1993, when a bomb exploded at a nearby petrol pump and partially damaged it. It was reconstructed later with a more modern glass-fronted look and the newly refurbished Sena Bhavan was inaugurated by Balasaheb Thackeray on July 27, 2006, which was also the 46th birthday of Uddhav Thackeray, then declared as Balasaheb Thackeray’s political heir. This, of course, caused a lot of heartburn to his more ambitious nephew Raj Thackeray, later leading to a split in the family.

Earlier, when the Emergency was imposed, Balasaheb Thackeray had opposed it, but later decided to support the government. The then PM Indira Gandhi, after a personal meeting with Thackeray, had personally struck the name of Shiv Sena off the list of banned parties.

Thackeray had continued to support the Congress and aligned with the BJP only after she had passed away. “The news of her assassination was like a thousand ants biting into my brains,” he had later said.

Incidentally, Ms Gandhi had once decided to inspect Sena Bhavan, accompanied by then chief minister AR Antulay. At the time, Thackeray had come to the window and folded his palms to her in greeting, to which she had reciprocated in a similar manner.

It is a cherished story told over and over by Shiv Sainiks even today. Sena Bhavan is thus a slice of history that can never be replicated by the Shinde camp, no matter how grand a building they might construct, they say.

“Sena Bhavan has a certain importance for each and every leader in the country. It is not just a party office,” said a senior Sena leader.

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