Sainiks for three generations, family looks at Shiv Sena beyond Bal Thackeray

Sena supporters

There are no saffron flags or a wall-hanging of a roaring tiger's face with 'Jai Maharashtra' inscribed below or other similar symbols associated with the Shiv Sena in the 300 sq ft home of the Sawants in the S K Patil Chawls of Andheri (West). But a small photo-frame tucked away in a burrow shelf in a wall gives away the fact that the house belongs to loyal Shiv Sainiks.

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The photograph is of a beaming Prashant Sawant sitting next to Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. The 29-year-old has been working with the Sena's youth wing, Yuva Sena, for the past four years and calls it one of his prized possessions. Understandably so, considering three generations of the Sawants have been closely associated with the Sena.

Although they lament that problems faced by Maharashtrians in Mumbai persist even 56 years after the Sena was born, they firmly believe that the city would have "gone to the dogs" if not for the Sena. "The Sena is the reason why most people feel safe in Mumbai today. Some say the Sena is a party of goons but that is a misconception," says Prashant's mother Pradnya, an active member of the party's women's wing and the shaakha pramukh of ward 62 in Andheri for two years now.

The family has been saddened by Thackeray's failing health but it is sure that the Sena legacy will live on even after his death. "Balasaheb always said that the Sena will grow based solely on its deeds. He will always be with us," said Prashant's maternal grandfather Mukund Walawalkar, who joined the party the same year it was formed.

Walawalkar was a young newspaper vendor in the Goregaon suburb in the early 1960s when he became a regular reader of Marmik , Thackeray's cartoon weekly. "I was impressed by the way in which Balasaheb gave a voice to Hindus and Marathi people. I was confident that only Balasaheb can make Marathi people feel safe and give us our rights in a city that had no reservations for us in any sector," said Walawalkar.

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