The two factions of Shiv Sena led by party chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharasthra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde are set for a face-off on Wednesday.
Maharashtra's capital Mumbai is used to the huge Sena rally on Dussehra but this Wednesday would be the first in party's 56 year's history that Mumbai would see two rallies being held simultaneously. Both Uddhav's and Shinde's factions claim to be real Sena and to be the keepers of Sena founder Bal Thackeray's legacy.
Uddhav will hold his faction's rally at the historic Shivaji Park in Dadar in central Mumbai, a venue associated with the Sena since its inception in 1966. Shinde's faction is holding its rally at the MMRDA ground at the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in the suburbs. The sprawling MMRDA ground is located close to 'Matoshree', the private residence of the Thackeray family in suburban Bandra.
The two rallies are being seen as shows of strength of the two sides. The two leaders are also expected to target each other and bolster their claim to be the real Sena.
A Dussehra rally is being held at Shivaji Park after a gap of two years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Both sides have claimed their rallies will be a grand success with top leaders giving last minute touches to the preparations for the mega shows. On the ground, the areas in and around the two venues are awashed in saffron flags and banners.
Sena President Uddhav is expected to launch attacks on the Shinde faction and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), his former ally which is now part of the government in the state. In his address, Shinde is likely to target Uddhav for "deviating" from the path of Hindutva and joining hands with his once rivals Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in November 2019.
Shide rebelled with the majority of Sena MLAs in June, which led to the fall of Uddhav's Sena-led MVA government. Shinde replaced Uddhav as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
In light of the two rallies, stringent security measures are in place as there is a possibility of supporters of the two rival factions coming face to face in Mumbai, which may lead to law and order issues. Thousands of buses --of the state road transport and also private operators-- have been booked by the rival Sena factions to ferry their supporters to the venues from all over the state.
Sheetal Mhatre, a spokesperson for the Shinde camp, said 3.5-4 lakh people are expected to attend the rally at the MMRDA ground.
Arrangements for food and vehicle parking for those coming from outside the city have been made.
Both sides have claimed supporters of Shinde and Thackeray will come in large numbers from outside Mumbai for the high-profile events.
The Mumbai traffic police have made necessary arrangements for the parking of scores of buses that will bring workers to the rallies.
Buses carrying supporters from western and north Mumbai will be parked along Senapati Bapat Marg and Kamgar Maidan, while those arriving from Navi Mumbai and Thane will be parked at Five Gardens, Nathalal Parekh Marg, Edanwala Road, an official said.
Cars will be parked at India Bulls Finance, IndiaBulls One Centre and Kohinoor Square.
For the BKC event, buses will be parked behind the family court in Bandra, near Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank, the MMRDA ground and near Jio garden in the vicinity.
(With PTI inputs)