Mumbai: On the first Diwali after two years of pandemic-induced restrictions, leading politicians will celebrate the festival of lights with families and voters from their constituencies. With municipal and local elections just around the corner, leaders are focusing on political activities; some have even given up their regular Diwali vacation with family.
Prime Minister Eknath Shinde is expected to be busy reaching out to people during Diwali as he did during Ganeshotsav and Navratri. An official told HT that the CM is likely to visit different deepotsavs and cultural events organized in Mumbai and Thane to mark the festival. He is also likely to visit Revdanda in Raigad district to meet spiritual preacher Appasaheb Dharmadhikari.
Shinde’s predecessor, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son-in-law Aaditya, who are working to regroup their ranks after a vertical split in the party, will be mainly in Mumbai. As always, they will meet party leaders and workers who flock to their Bandra East residence, ‘Matoshre’, to greet them during Diwali. “Large crowds are expected to arrive there,” an aide to the former prime minister said.
Another major political family, that of Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, will celebrate Diwali in his hometown of Kathewadi in Baramati tehsil of Pune district. About 40 family members will gather for four days and meet people from the constituency during a public event. The Pawar family makes sure that all its members come together during the Diwali festival.
Deputy Prime Minister Devendra Fadnavis will spend four days of Diwali in his hometown, Nagpur, and one day in his official bungalow, Sagar, in Mumbai. “He is celebrating Dhanteras with children orphaned due to covid-19 in the last two years,” said a close associate of Fadnavis. “He has adopted 100 of them. This will be followed by low key family performances at Laxmi Pujan and Bhau Beej. The latter, as always, will be held at the Nagpur residence of the MP CM in Dharampeth.”
Political activities are the focus of all party leaders this Diwali. On the first Diwali after the split in Shiv Sena, the heads of both factions have focused on an outreach program. On Sunday, Thackeray will visit Aurangabad to meet with farmers whose standing crops were damaged by the unseasonal rains. He is expected to demand that the state government announce a wet drought and seek compensation for affected farmers.
The Shiv Sena (UBT) is also focusing on the upcoming by-elections for the Andheri East constituency. Although Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Murji Patel’s withdrawal from the race has ensured child’s play for Sena’s Rutuja Latke, the party is aiming to grab its record number of votes to prove its strength on the ground.
One of Thackeray’s associates said that while he would be visiting Thane and the Pohradevi shrine in Washim district for public meetings, he was expected to do so after Diwali. It is also likely that he will start his state tour at the end of the year.
Uddhav Thackeray’s estranged first cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray will stay in Mumbai. “He will be in Mumbai and meet with workers on Diwali,” said an MNS leader. “Usually he never goes anywhere else for Diwali and celebrates it in Mumbai.”
For the Pawars, it will be a five-day celebration in their hometown of Kathewadi. “Five days of Diwali are celebrated in four different places in and around Kathewadi,” said a Baramati NCP leader. “Padva is celebrated at Sharad Pawar’s Govind Baug residence, while Bhau Beej is celebrated at Ajit Pawar’s Kathewadi residence. For two days, Rajendra and Ranjit, Sharad Pawar’s other two nephews, host the family at their home in Pimpli, which is about 4 km from Baramati. This year too, the whole family, including Pawar’s nephews, nieces and grandchildren, will take part in the Diwali celebration. At least 35 to 40 family members get together each year on Diwali. This has been his Diwali ritual for over 30 years.”
The Pawar family organizes a two-day music festival to celebrate with their constituents. “After a gap of two years due to pandemic restrictions, ‘Sharadotsav’ is organized on the weekend at Vidya Pratisthan in Baramati,” the leader said. “Shrinivas Pawar, Ajit Pawar’s brother and Supriya Sule organize the festival. The Pawar family meets people during this event.”