On Sunday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray arrived at the Westin Hotel in Powai, on occasion of the Shiv Sena's 56th anniversary.
The Chief Minister addressed legislators and Legislative Council candidates, ahead of the legislative council elections due to be held on Monday.
Thackeray wished Shiv Sena workers on the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the founding of the party, recalling the functioning and growth of the party over the years, including having weathered the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi during 1975-77.
The chief minster said, "There is peace in Maharashtra. Unfortunately Shiv Sena lost its second nominee Sanjay Pawar in the Rajya Sabha election."
He asked party legislators to vote for Sachin Ahir and Aamshya Padavi in the state Council polls.
Addressing the rumours of impending retirements of senior party members, the chief minister said, "Subhash Desai and Diwakar Raote won't retire, but will continue to be associated with the work of the Shiv Sena," adding that both followed directives after they were not renominated for state Council poll.
Thackeray also expressed a desire to see the number of Shiv Sena legislators increase after next assembly election, adding that he wished for the same in the Parliament after the 2024 General Election.
The chief minister also dismissed rumours that he was worried about the BJP poaching candidates ahead of the polls.
"In the Rajya Sabha election not a single party legislator and associate member cross voted. I don't expect cross voting tomorrow either," Thackeray stated. He voiced confidence that there would not be any split in the party.
"Shiv Sena had shown a different path by rejecting the BJP in the past. It will be shown in tomorrow's state Council election also," Thackeray said.
He also warned legislators against defection, adding that treachery would not be tolerated by the party ahead of the legislative council polls.
The chief minister took the opportunity to slam the BJP-led Centre for the controversial Agnipath scheme and drew a distinction between the BJP's version of Hindutva, which he stated was merely a ploy to stay in power, drawing a contrast with the Hindutva of the Shiv Sena.
On the Agnipath scheme, the CM claimed that the only jobs available to agnivirs after their 4-year service period would be that of "drivers and barbers."
Terming the scheme a "hire and fire, use and throw" policy, he urged the Centre to stop making what he said were "false promises."
In addition, he criticised the ruling BJP on a slew of issues and perceived missteps, including demonetisation, farm laws and what he called a false promise of over 2 crore jobs annually.
Meanwhile Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut sought to burnish the Sena's right-wing credentials ahead of the polls, while simultaneously attacking the BJP.
"Shiv Sena supreme Balasaheb Thackeray is the father of Hindutva," said Sanjay Raut. The party is expected to come under pressure by the BJP, who will undoubtedly seek to attack the Sena for being insufficiently Hindu nationalist.
Raut also lashed out at the BJP, condemning the Centre's recently announced Agnipath scheme.
In addition, Raut condemned the Centre for its heavy-handed use of central agencies against political opponenents.
"BJP should not deploy central probe agencies to crush opponents," Raut said, adding that the Shiv Sena, "was not scared."
Free Press Journal reports that potential legislators are currently being lodged at the Westin Hotel at the International Business Park in Powai. It is likely that the Shiv Sena is taking no chances, and is isolating its candidates to ward off any potential horse-trading overtures by the BJP.
The celebration of the Shiv Sena's founding is likely to be subdued, on account of the rising number of Covid cases in the city, as well as the fact that leaders are occupied with the conduct of state legislative council elections, to be held on Monday.
The Shiv Sena is a right-wing Marathi regionalist and Hindu nationalist political party in India founded in 1966 by cartoonist Bal Thackeray.
Originally emerging from nativist movements in Mumbai, the party agitates for preferential treatment for the Marathi people over migrants from other parts of India.
Its election symbol for Maharashtra is a Bow and Arrow.
Uddhav Thackeray, Bal Thackeray's son, is party leader and serves as the current Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
The party is currently part of a ruling alliance in Maharashtra; the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), with the Indian National Congress (INC).
MVA is a state-level political coalition formed after the 2019 Maharashtra Legislative Assembly election under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray of Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar of the NCP and Sonia Gandhi of the INC, along with the support from the Samajwadi Party, PWPI, Prahar Janshakti Party and several other political parties including Independent MLAs.