Miffed at the Maharashtra government’s decision to allow Shiv Sena to continue holding its Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park despite the ground being declared a “silence zone” since the past few years, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena will continue its fight to get political access to the park, an open ground of great political significance to Marathi vote-bank seeker Shiv Sena. The Sena has traditionally held its Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park. Every year, the formality of seeking Bombay High Court permission is completed after the state government moots the proposal.
The MNS has said that the state government has been trying to mislead the Bombay High Court by withholding crucial and correct information about the nature of the rally. “The government told the court that the rally is a cultural event where the party activists exchange holy tree leaves and worship weapons. But in fact, the rally is political in nature,” MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande said.
Shiv Sena’s Dussehra rally has been significant since the days of its formation by late Balasaheb Thackeray in the 1960s. The rally is attended by thousands of Shiv Sainiks across the state. The Sena spells out its course of action and stand on various matters during this rally, which is closely watched by politicians and political analysts. The MNS has said that if Sena is given permission to hold a rally there, even MNS should be given permission with the same restrictions. “Why the discrimination then? If Sena is allowed to use the ground for its political rally, all other parties should get an opportunity too. The state government should come up with restrictions and guidelines which need to be followed before holding a programme there,” Deshpande said.
In its affidavit filed before the Bombay High Court, Deshpande has said, “The political party on whose behalf the government has filed a notice of motion is facing prosecution about (sic) past four years when permissions were granted to use Shivaji Park for the same purpose. I have been told that FIRs have been registered against the organisers for violation of norms and rules. It is further submitted that the state of Maharashtra has not disclosed those facts before this Honourable Court.” He claimed that the state government committed wilful and intentional disobedience by not telling the court about it.
“It is further submitted that the state government cannot represent a political party or an agenda of the political party. The government is representing all citizens of state of Maharashtra. In view of the same, since true and correct facts have not been placed before this Honourable Court, the Chamber summons for intervention be granted,” the affidavit stated.
Deshpande said he will plead before the court during the next hearing in November, that the government grant equal opportunity to all political parties to use Shivaji Park.