The first Shiv Sena rally at Shivaji Park after two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and the split from the rebelling faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde drew party workers and supporters from across Maharashtra. Young and old Shiv Sainiks shouted slogans against the Shinde faction and promised loyalty to the party.
While packed buses brought supporters straight to the ground, Dadar station was packed with people from Nagpur, Pune, Nashik, Marathwada, Kolhapur, Solapur, Ratnagiri and other parts of the state. On way to Shivaji Park, they shouted “Uddhav Saheb aage badho, hum tumahare saath hai”, “Shiv Sena aamchya hakkachi nahi konachya bappachi (Shiv Sena is our right and no one else’s prerogative)”. Many young Shiv Sainiks also wore T-shirts with the message “Yes, we are loyal to Thackerays, Gaddarana Shama Nahi (betrayers will not be forgiven)”.
A group of senior citizens came all the way from Kolhapur to extend their support to Uddhav Thackeray’s faction. “We came here early in the morning and will stay tonight at the railway station. It’s our love for the party that has brought us here,” said Madhukar Bhosale and 72-year-old farmer from Kolhapur Balwant Kavade. Late Shiv Sena leader Anand Dighe’s lookalike, Kisan Tambe from Goregaon, was one of the attractions, too.
The party’s women’s wing came with a burning torch, vowing to see Uddhav Thackeray again as chief minister. Balgopal Sangh from Kandil Galli in Mahim offered a 48-foot lantern supporting Uddhav, even as the crowd roared “yes, we are loyal”. “Today he is alone and betrayed, but we won’t leave him since we are not in party for money or power,” said a few senior party workers.
Party worker (Upshakha pramukh) from Colaba, Shakil Khureshi came walking to Shivaji Park. “I have been attending the Dussehra rally for the past 10 years. We will never forgive the rebels. Shiv Sena doesn’t need such backstabbers… Voters will show them their place,” he said.
Tukaram Phophe, 70, from Karjat said he doesn’t understands politics but always comes to listen to Uddhav Thackeray. Upshakha Pramukh from Malad, Avinash Mane said he has been attending the rally for the past 20 years when he was 22 years old. “We won’t leave the party when it needs us the most. We will show our power in the upcoming BMC elections,” he said.
Shiv Sena MLA from Bhandup Ramesh Korgaonkar said it’s his duty to stand with the party in these times. “Such betrayals are not new to Shiv Sena; we will come out strong,” he said..