One of the largest public festivals of Maharashtra, the 11-day Ganeshotsav, is set to turn bigger this year in Mumbai due to the forthcoming corporation elections.

Nearly 10,000 public mandals have installed huge Ganesh idols across the city. Notable among them are Lalbaugcha Raja, Ganesh Galli Ganpati, GSB Seva Mandal, Tejukaya, Andhericha Raja, Fort Vibhaag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal.

One of the oldest mandals is the 118-year-old Shree Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal in South Mumbai’s Girgaum. It was initiated as the first sarvajanik (public) mandal by the freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak in 1893. Tilak started Ganeshotsav celebrations on public platforms to mobilise people against the British Raj.

This is also the centenary of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s famous court declaration, “Swarajya is my birthright, and I shall have it”. The BJP has decided to use this to strengthen its hold among the Ganpati mandals. “We have been taking the initiative to spread the word to celebrate this centenary,” advocate Ashish Shelar, president of Mumbai BJP, told The Sunday Guardian. Over 10,000 sarvajanik Ganpati mandals have installed Ganpati idols across the city.

Traditionally, since Shiv Sena has been in power in the local municipal corporations, these mandals shared a rapport with the Sena. But the BJP launched Akhil Bharatiya Ganeshotsav Mahasangha last year. Through this platform, the party enrols sarvajanik Ganpati mandals. “Through the co-ordination committee, we help Ganpati mandals get permissions for the installation of Ganpati idols and pandals,” Shelar said.

While the BJP has been trying to gain clout by enrolling more and more Ganesh mandals, providing boats for large idols during immersion, the Shiv Sena has taken its own course of action.

The Sena corporators and mayor recently reviewed the arrangements for Ganeshotsav.

Before that, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray had held a large meeting of sarvajanik Ganesh mandals, idol makers and MCGM officials. He appealed to the mandals to spread message about health issues in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, according to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, over 1 Lakh households in the city have installed Ganpatis this year. “Adequate security arrangements have been made in view of these factors. We know that the celebrations will be on a larger scale this year due to the forthcoming corporation elections. Though there is no specific terror alert, we have prepared ourselves to deal with any threat. The leave of all police personnel during the festival has been cancelled. This means, the entire police force will be present on the streets of Mumbai during the festival,” Deven Bharti, Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), said. The 50,000-strong police force will be assisted by platoons of para-military forces and teams of 15,000 volunteers.

After the successful trial of drones for bandobast during last year, the police have now decided to use the technology at a larger level. Drones will now keep an eye in the sky, and send feeds to the control rooms to manage visarjan and traffic conditions. They will be deployed at all critical immersion spots in the city like Girgaum chaupatty, Juhu beach, Shivaji park, Malwani.

A network of 6000 CCTV cameras will keep an eye on the city. The police have claimed that all these cameras are in working condition. The routes of important sarvajanik Ganpatis like Lalbaugcha Raja have not been changed. “The traffic arrangements in terms of one ways and no entry have also not been changed. This is because people have got used to the same pattern for years. If any changes are made this year, it is likely to cause confusion and inconvenience,” Milind Bharambe, Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic), said.

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