By Dilip Chaware
Chief minister Eknath Shinde is making concerted efforts to lure satraps of various Ganesh Festival and Govinda groups to his side by showering various assurances in response to their demands. These groups are considered the backbone of the Shiv Sena set up by Balasaheb Thackeray.
Leaders of prominent such groups called on Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadanvis to vent their grievance that the celebration of the ten-day Ganesh Utsav and of Dahi Handi was hampered by various restrictions imposed by the police department and the Brihanmumbai municipal corporation (BMC). They complained that they had not been given an audience by earlier chief minister Uddhav Thackeray during his tenure.
Shinde said the celebration should take place with the same enthusiasm like in earlier years and the authorities were instructed by him during the meeting to act as facilitators for this. The restrictions on the height of Ganesh idols were lifted by him when urged to do so. Moreover, the police cases filed against volunteers of many groups for flouting noise pollution norms were ordered to be withdrawn. He appealed to the groups to promote the cause of the environment and cooperate with the authorities.
Shinde and his followers are engaged in securing support of a majority in the Sena’s national council, which has 282 members. If they succeed, they will be able to claim that they have more members and hence should be recognised as the ‘official’ Shiv Sena. According to Sena’s constitution, there are 13 positions in the organisation, beginning from the Sena chief to the Shakha Pramukh. The national council comprises office-bearers at various levels in addition to elected representatives in the legislature and parliament. Shinde supporters are busy to muster at least 188 members in their fold, thus to be able to claim a two-third majority. As most members are from Mumbai and Thane and a substantial number among them are connected with Ganesh and Govinda groups, its effort is to woo them.
While legal preparations are going ahead for the scheduled supreme court hearing on 1 August, Shinde followers are sparing no efforts to make inroads into the Sena.
A veteran journalist, formerly Special Correspondent, The Times of India, Mumbai.