Sena versus Sena, now out on the streets

Mumbai The clash of the two Shiv Sena factions has now spilled out from court rooms to the streets of Mumbai, ahead of the crucial civic elections later this year. The factions led by chief minister Eknath Shinde and his predecessor Uddhav Thackeray came to blows in the Marathi heartland of Prabhadevi and Dadar on Saturday night. FIRs were also registered against leaders from both factions.

The simmering tensions between the factions rose to the fore on visarjan day at Prabhadevi, where both the groups had set up stages to assist Ganpati devotees. While police managed to control both the factions that day, things came to a head on Saturday night.

Around 12.30 am, Shinde supporter Santosh Telkwane started criticising Thackeray supporters over the previous day’s incident in a WhatsApp group. Vibhag Pramukh Mahesh Sawant from Thackeray’s Sena and his supporters asked Telkwane to meet them in Nagu Saiyajiwadi area in Prabhadevi to thrash it out. The two sides got into a scuffle. According to the police, Thackeray supporters beat up the Shinde supporters, following which a case was registered for unlawful assembly, rioting and dacoity against Sawant and 20 to 25 others. Five of them were arrested and later released on bail.

Police added that MLA and Shinde supporter Sada Sarvankar, who had also arrived at the scene in Prabhadevi, was carrying his pistol to the spot. Sawant and his supporters allegedly assaulted Telvane and Sarvankar removed his pistol and cocked (loaded) it to threaten Sawant and his supporters, said a police officer.

After police reached the spot and rounded up some of the Thackeray supporters for unlawful assembly, supporters of both factions went to protest at Dadar police station. Senior Sena leaders Arvind Sawant, Anil Parab, Ambadas Danve, Sunil Rane and Sachin Ahir among others also rushed to the police station demanding the release of those who were arrested. That’s when Sarvankar allegedly fired a bullet, which hit the ground. The Thackeray faction alleged that Sarvankar, who has sided with Shinde, fired at least two rounds from his pistol targeting Mahesh Sawant. Sawant was not hurt. Sarvankar has denied all the allegations.

After this incident, Dadar police registered an FIR against MLA Sada Sarvankar, his son and 10 to 12 of their supporters under the Arms Act and for rioting. No one has been arrested yet.

“A few meters away from the police station, our staff heard a gunshot. No one was injured. During inquiry, it was learnt that the bullet was fired from Sarvankar’s pistol. It might be that he forgot to unload the pistol and when he tried to hold his pistol again, it was fired. It might also be that he allegedly fired a bullet to scare the opposite group,” said a police officer who is part of the investigating team. “Things will be clear when we record Sarvankar’s statement. We will also check the CCTV footage at the spot,” said senior inspector Mahesh Mugutrao of the Dadar police station.

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant and several other supporters of Uddhav Thackeray also visited Dadar police station on Sunday afternoon and demanded action against Sada Sarvankar for allegedly firing in public.

“We have registered two cases – one for unlawful assembly, rioting, dacoity against 20 to 25 people and another case registered under the arms act and rioting against 10 to 12 members of the group based on the preliminary investigation. Police are verifying and identifying those involved in the scuffle as well and action is being taken against them,” said deputy commissioner of police Pranay Ashok of Zone 5.

Sena MP Sawant from the Thackeray camp said they are ready to come out onto the streets and show who the real Shiv Sena is. Alleging misuse of power, he also demanded the resignation of chief minister Eknath Shinde.

The five Shiv Sena workers, who were released on bail, met Uddhav Thackeray at his Matoshree residence in Bandra on Sunday. Tensions continued as workers from the Thackeray camp also pelted stones at one of the offices of Sarvankar and tore posters of Shinde camp in Dadar.

With local body elections inching closer, the legacy war between Thackeray and Shinde camp is intensifying with the chief minister’s decision to hold a Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park at Dadar. Thackeray led Shiv Sena has been holding the Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park since 1966 when Sena was formed by Bal Thackeray. This year, both the Thackeray and Shinde factions have sought permission with the BMC for holding the rally at Shivaji Park.

“If they want to disturb law and order, then we know how to deal with it. Despite the shameful acts, the peace of the state has been maintained only because of Uddhav Thackeray saheb. But if they continue to poke us, we will not tolerate it,” Sawant said.

He alleged that Sarvankar fired shots at the spot where the clash took place and also in the police station premises. Those in power are expected to maintain law and order but in the case of Maharashtra, it is exactly the opposite, he remarked.

In his defence, Sarvankar told mediapersons that the allegations are nothing but attempts to defame him as he has sided with Eknath Shinde. Denying the charges, he said, “I have a licensed pistol but I have got police personnel deployed in my security holding automatic guns. Why do I need to do anything like this?”

Sarvankar clarified that he went to the spot with his son and former corporator Samadhan Sarvankar to control the situation and not to aggravate it.