Rs 55-lakh prize money, jobs for govindas, Spain holiday: Maharashtra’s Dahi Handi politics

The two factions of the Shiv Sena are trying to outdo each other as they organise large-scale Dahi Handi celebrations. Raj Thackeray’s MNS has upped the ante by offering a total prize amount of Rs 55 lakh and a trip to Spain. The BJP is organising programmes in the Sena strongholds of Mumbai

Dahi Handi celebrations have become the lastest flashpoint between two factions of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. AFP

Dahi Handi is now a sport in Maharashtra and even politicians are indulging in a game of one-upmanship. The festival is part of the Janmashtami celebrations that sees “govindas” move around cities and compete with each other to break handis (earthen pots) filled with curd and win big prizes.

After two years of subdued festivities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maharashtra government has lifted all curbs this year. Now the festival has become yet another flashpoint between the two factions of the Shiv Sena. Even Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has upped the ante and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the latest entrant in the state’s “Dahi Handi” politics.

Dahi Handi events, mostly sponsored by political parties, have increased the prize money this year. It starts from around a lakh and goes up to 55 lakh. But there is more.

Shinde promises jobs, insurance to govindas

The biggest trump card was of course played by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde who decided to give an “adventure sport” status to Dahi Handi. This will allow young govindas, who form human pyramids to break handis, to apply for government jobs under the sports quota.

That’s not all. The government will also provide insurance cover of Rs 10 lakh to participants. Apart from this, if any govinda loses his life, insurance of Rs 10 lakh will be provided to the family. The government will give Rs 7 lakh to a participant with a serious injury and Rs 5 lakh will be given if one suffers a fracture.

The handis are often put up at a height and there are chances of injury as govindas scale the pyramids formed by their teammates.

Sena vs Sena, the Dahi Handi edition

The latest clash between the two factions of the Shiv Sena, one led by Uddhav Thackeray and the other by Shinde, is over Dahi Handi.

Both the camps have put up hoardings and banners across Mumbai, neighbouring Thane, and other cities with photos of Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and party strongman and Shinde’s mentor Anand Dighe.

Shinde’s son and Kalyan MP Shrikant Shinde said that their event depicts respect for the late leaders, Thackeray and Dighe. On the other hand, the Thackeray faction MP, Rajan Vichare, said that their event reflects loyalty, unity, culture and the voice of Hindutva, according to a report on NDTV.

In Thane, where Shinde grew up and has a lot of influence, the two factions have organised mega events about a kilometre from each other. The faction led by the Maharashtra CM has organised Dahi Handi at Tembhi Naka and the one by Vichare at Jambhali Naka.

The Tembhi Naka Dahi Handi was first started by Anand Dighe, a tradition taken forward by Shinde and now his son Shrikant.

Aaditya Thackeray will be visiting the Dahi Handis organised by his party in Mumbai and CM Shinde will also be seen visiting those which have been backed by his camp.

Rs 55lakh prize money jobs for govindas Spain holiday Maharashtras Dahi Handi politics

The BJP has organised 370 Dahi Handi programmes across Mumbai as it eyes the upcoming BMC election. AFP

The prize money keeps growing

Lakhs of rupees are offered as prize money for Dahi Handi. For the teams winning the events in Mumbai and Thane, the Shinde camp has announced Rs 2.51 lakh.

Vichare has said that there will be two handis in Thane, one named after Bal Thackeray and another after Anand Dighe. The first prize will be Rs 11 lakh for each of them.

Another Shiv Sena MLA from Thane Pratap Sarnaik has upped the game, offering Rs 21 lakh for the team that breaks the handi at an event organised by him.

It gets even bigger. The MNS is not watching from the sidelines. It has announced a total prize amount of Rs 55 lakh this year. The party’s Thane and Palghar president, Avinash Jadhav, said that the winner will get Rs 11 lakh and the team that equals or breaks the world record will get a chance to visit Spain, reports News18.

BJP vs Shiv Sena

With an eye on the upcoming Birhanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, the BJP has organised 370 Dahi Handi programmes across Mumbai. It’s the first time it has organised these events which are associated with parties from Maharashtra – mostly the Shiv Sena but also the MNS.

The BJP has organised a big celebration at Jamboree Maidan in Mumbai’s Worli, a venue where the Shiv Sena organised the event until 2019. Worli is Sena MLA and Thackeray scion Aaditya’s constituency.

The party is also holding similar festivities in Mumbai’s Sena strongholds of Parli, Lalbaug, Dadar, and Girgaum. The BJP has also insured 20,000 govindas a sum of Rs 10 lakh, reports The Indian Express.

The Shiv Sena has organised “Nishtha Dahi Handi” opposite its headquarters, the Sena Bhavan in Mumbai’s Dadar.

The Shiv Sen has been organising the festival since the 1960s and ‘70s. “This has helped the Sena project itself as a party that values the local culture. Such programmes are popular in Central Mumbai, which is Sena’s ‘gadh’ (stronghold), and it did not allow BJP to penetrate these areas. Now the BJP will try its best to break the tradition. The Sena will do everything it can to counter this,” Mumbai-based political analyst Sanjay Patil told The Indian Express.

With inputs from agencies

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