Mumbai: Perhaps for the first time in 48 years, the Shiv Sena’s annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park here will be held this year without fiery speeches for which it was renowned.
Launched first by Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray in 1966, over the years the Shiv Sena’s Dussehra rally has become a red-letter day in Maharashtra’s political calendar.
This year, however, will be different on account of the ongoing process for the state assembly elections to be held Oct 15.
“We shall perform the traditional Dussehra Puja at Shivaji Park, but there will be no speeches…The Dussehra speeches will be at the Borivali rally,” Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said here Wednesday.
In fact, the Dussehra rally – held virtually uninterrupted for the past 48 years – was an opportunity for the Shiv Sena to announce its major political initiatives.
Even other opposition parties considered it as a barometer of the waxing or waning support for the Shiv Sena, a party liked or hated, but never ignored under any circumstance.
For over four decades, it was religiously addressed by Bal Thackeray, virtually single-handedly holding the fort and commanding public attention as his political rivals and bete-noires squirmed at his tongue-lashing.
Bal Thackeray’s electrifying speeches in Marathi, sparing neither friends nor foes, his acidic style of butchering political opponents, no-holds barred and double-entendre language skills, dramatic mannerisms to accompany the verbal volley and the sheer public response he attracted, remain unmatched till date.
The 28-acre venue, with a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji on its western corner, was usually jam-packed, but there were years when the crowds spilled over.
Gradually, as his frail health prevented him, son Uddhav Thackeray took over the burden, as the party executive president, though he always invoked his father in speeches.
A few years ago, a nervous Uddhav Thackeray had even brought a video-recording of his ailing father’s speech which was telecast to reassure the loyal sainiks as well as to ensure a smooth passage of the Thackeray mantle to gen-next.
After Bal Thackeray’s death at the age of 86 Nov 17, 2012, Uddhav Thackeray addressed the first rally at the venue last year and vowed to carry forward his father’s “ideals and achieve the dream of a saffron flag fluttering atop the Mantralaya”, the state secretariat.
Bal Thackeray was cremated at Shivaji Park – his favourite ground in south-central Mumbai’s Dadar west.
With the assembly elections next fortnight, the time has finally come for Uddhav Thackeray to fulfil his father’s desire.