Union minister Ramdas Athawale on Tuesday said the “real” Shiv Sena is the faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and only it has the “moral right” to hold the party’s annual Dussehra rally in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park.
Mumbai’s civic body has said it had received applications from the Uddhav Thackeray and Shinde-led factions of the Shiv Sena to “book” the sprawling Shivaji Park for the party’s Dussehra rally in October.
The rally, arguably the most important event in the Shiv Sena’s political calendar, has been taking place at Shivaji Park for several decades, but has two claimants this time due to a split in the Sena following a rebellion by Mr Shinde in June.
Speaking to reporters in Pune, Mr Athawale said the Shinde faction has the support of two-thirds of the Shiv Sena’s elected representatives and workers, and expressed the hope the ruling camp will get decisions in its favour from the Election Commission and court in matters pending before them over the party symbol and other issues.
“According to me, since the real Shiv Sena belongs to Eknath Shinde, he has the moral right to hold the Dussehra ‘melava’ (rally) at Shivaji Park. That moral right has slipped from the hands of (Sena president) Uddhav Thackeray,” said the central minister, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
He advised Mr Thackeray to hold his faction’s rally at BKC, a business district in suburban Bandra.
“The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will support the Shinde faction and give permission to them to hold the congregation (in Shivaji Park),” he said.
Shivaji Park in central Mumbai is closely associated with the evolution and growth of the Shiv Sena, which was founded by Bal Thackeray.
Asked about Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar meeting various opposition leaders to unite them against the BJP, Mr Athawale asserted it was not an easy task to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Modiji and we (BJP and its allies) will keep going ahead. Let the opposition parties come together, but it is not a kid’s play to confront Modiji,” stated the Union minister.
He termed Nitish Kumar, who snapped ties with the BJP last month, as an “unreliable” politician and mockingly said “It was good that leaders like him and KCR (Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao) and (his West Bengal counterpart) and Mamata Banerjee are coming together. Let them come together, we are ready to confront them.”
The Union minister maintained his party, the Republican Party of India (Athawale), will not contest the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections on the BJP’s symbol, but will fight on its own poll symbol.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)