No Shivaji Park, Uddhav’s address to go online

Since the launch of the Shiv Sena in June 1966 by late firebrand leader Bal Thackeray, the party’s annual Dussehra rally has been one of the most famed events in Mumbai during Navratri.

But Shivaji Park, the sprawling venue for the gathering in Dadar, won’t have the usual glitz and ‘roar’ this year. The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has forced the party to turn its prestigious function into a mute affair.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will address his party workers and the public online on Dussehra under Covid-19 protocols to avoid crowding.

The Sena, which is heading the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, had planned a grand rally, the first after party president Uddhav Thackeray became the Chief Minister, in November last year.

This year’s Dussehra address would have been a gander affair considering that Uddhav is also the chief minister, said party sources.

Already a team led by Thackeray’s son and Minister of Tourism and Environment Aaditya Thackeray has been working on the planning and execution of the online rally.

The focus, Sena functionaries said, will be to extensively use social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to show live and reach out to the maximum people of the state.

This is going to be the first such rally after the Sena and BJP broke their 25-year-plus alliance after the last assembly elections. Months after last year’s assembly polls, Thackeray blamed the BJP for not agreeing to the equal sharing of the CM’s post and joined hands with NCP and Congress to form the government.

On its launch anniversary on June 19, the Sena had held an online rally. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said there will not be a break or a pause in the party's customary Dussehra rally.

Party insiders said Uddhav will not only list MVA government’s slew of initiatives to combat the coronavirus but also highlight efforts to revive the state’s Covid-battered economy.

Against the backdrop of a campaign run by the BJP and others after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Uddhav is expected to send a signal to his party’s erstwhile ally that he is in the saddle, sources said. He will also counter the BJP for its continuous attacks on him and the repeated talks about the ‘collapse’ of the MVA government.

In all these years, the Sena has called off its Dussehra rally on two occasions—following the Mumbai deluge in 2006 and in 2009 due to Assembly elections.

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