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MNS, Cong gain from toll protest; only state loses

Barring a meeting between MNS leaders and CM Prithviraj Chavan, there was no breakthrough in the impasse over toll collection yesterday, in spite of the sensational way in which the matter was raised by the MNS. A mystery and obvious lack of transparency continues to surround the huge profits made by contractors from toll collection, and other contentious issues continue to remain unanswered.

The hullabaloo over the protest, especially after MNS chief Raj Thackeray threatened to lead a rasta roko agitation against toll collections, had created the impression that this would be an acid test for the Congress-NCP government. But nothing really happened, with the state refusing to budge an inch, forget reviewing the existing toll policy a proposal pending before the state cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure for over a week now.

Had the government been in any mood to make changes, it would certainly have announced its decision, based on a toll policy review report submitted by a secretary-level committee. But, even after MNS appeared firm on the agitation, the Chavan-led government chose to remain unresponsive. Despite slapping prohibitory orders under Section 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code against the MNS agitators, Raj was given easy passage from Shivaji Park to Sion.

There was no arrest, only a temporary detention. Further, MNS workers bragged that the CM had contacted their chief and invited him for a discussion on Thursday morning. The MNS, a party that’s been struggling to retain its foothold in state politics, hailed this as a major victory. It hardly is if a meeting is all that the MNS wanted, they could have just asked the CM for one, instead of raising such a hue and cry.

It appears that the Congress-led government is letting the MNS have its day in the limelight, letting it agitate to its heart’s content, in a typical instance of political chicanery. The Congress desperately wants, at this juncture, to unnerve the BJP and Shiv Sena.

One of the ways to do this is by indirectly using the MNS’ bravado to its advantage, allowing public support for the MNS to dent the Shiv Sena-BJP’s vote- bank, just like it did in the 2009 elections. It’s win-win for both MNS and the Congress, a loss only for the people of the city.

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