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BJP, Sena organise 'maha aartis'

By Mahesh Vijapurkar

MUMBAI Sept. 2. As in 1992-93, maha aartis are back on the streets of Mumbai. This time, says the newly elected Maharashtra BJP chief, Gopinath Munde, "it is not political, but for promoting nationalism and fighting terrorism."

The first in the proposed chain of maha aartis, was at the Chembur suburb, in front of the `pandal' where a massive Ganesh idol has been installed.

The aarti was led by Mr. Munde, along with the Shiv Sena general secretary, Subhash Desai.

The aarti spilled on to the street as the pandal was too small to hold the BJP and Shiv Sena activists, whose similar enterprises a decade ago were seen as the cause for aggravating tensions between Hindus and Muslims and dividing the city.

Mr. Munde likened the campaign to the use of the public Ganesh festivities over a 100 years ago by Lokmanya Tilak. "As he (Tilak) roused consciousness for freedom among the people, we intend to rouse them against terrorism. If the Government stops us, we are willing to make any sacrifice."

He said it was the responsibility of the people as well to fight the terrorists.

"It is not just the Government. And in Maharashtra, anyhow, the Government has failed.''

Contrary to speculation that the Sena was lukewarm to the idea of the maha aartis, the BJP has secured not only the presence of Mr. Desai but also has an assurance that the Sena's working president, Uddhav Thackeray, and the Leader of the Opposition, Narayan Rane, would be present in the next round.

According to Bhai Girkar, BJP Mumbai unit president, "there would be one maha aarti every day.

Locations have been identified in the suburbs and the idea is to hold them in at least 100 places.''

Both the BJP and the Sena would be involved.

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