It’s that time of the year again when Ganesha idols dot streets, bargaining over puja commodities fills markets and the country gears up to bring its elephant god home. However, just like last year, the coronavirus pandemic has dampened the festive fervour, with states such as Maharashtra and Delhi urging people to opt for muted celebrations in view of warnings about a possible third wave of Covid-19.
While the virus may have forced many to shelve their plans, political parties have decided to turn the adversity into opportunity to cash in on the 10-day festival with just six months to go for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls.
From Covid vaccine camps, to puja boxes and organising free travel for people in Mumbai and Thane to go back to their home towns in the Konkan region for the festival, parties have adopted novel techniques to woo voters.
The Shiv Sena, especially, heavily relied on the Ganpati festival in the 1970s to expand its membership. Currently, all political parties donate generously to Ganesh mandals using the occasion to make broadcast their agendas ahead of polls, The Print reported.
This year, the party will distribute puja boxes that contain all material people need to celebrate at home. In addition, there will be eye check-up camps and another medical camp for children who are expected to be at risk if there is a third wave.
In Thane, the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) are organising buses for people to travel to their homes in the districts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg for the festival.
Catching up on the trend, BJP MLA Nitesh Rane flagged off a ‘Modi Express’ train for people from Mumbai to travel to Konkan free of cost. All coaches of the train and train passes carried a photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister Narayan Rane, Minister of State Raosaheb Danve and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
BJP MLA Ashish Shelar too distributed puja boxes — 6,000 of them — comprising aarti books, incense sticks and camphor to households in his constituency.