Raj leads protest march from the front

It’s a show of strength for Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). And party chief Raj Thackeray is leaving nothing to chance. Sources tell us the firebrand leader has been administering every aspect of today’s protest march — designs and contents of posters, selection of frontline representatives at the rally, etc.

The demonstration — in response to the August 11 violence in which two people were killed and about 60 others were injured – is likely to commence from Girgaum Chowpatty and culminate, predictably, at Azad Maidan. The police department, however, hasn’t granted MNS authorisation for a rally, permitting only a protest gathering at the site of the violence ten days ago. Party sources say even the buses to transport workers to the venue would be sent from ‘RajGad’, the party headquarters at Dadar.

Raj has appointed observers for every constituency with an MNS MLA. Their job is to scrutinise how the party functionaries are performing. A target of 200 participants from every ‘shakha’ has been set by the party chief, and even local mandals, groups and organisations that wish to protest against the August 11 riots, have been invited to join.

Sum and substance
The total turnout target has been hiked to 1 lakh — sources say the MNS chief wants to see a minimum of 60,000 to 70,000 protesters. “The August 11 violence was a show of strength by a few people. Our gathering at Girgaum Chowpatty would be a show of strength against all those who think we are going to take everything lying down and won’t retaliate,” said a senior MNS functionary.

Akhilesh Chaubey, general secretary of MNS legal cell and the observer for three of its MLA constituencies, said, “Rajsaheb is taking this particular protest march very seriously. He’s trying to ensure that everything is perfect. There’s no other power centre except RajGad.”

The hoardings erected by the party are particularly interesting. They just bear the MNS colour and a message asking people to come and join. Senior party functionary Akhil Chitre said, “We have a complete black hoarding with simply the appeal. We want to show the rioters that there are people who won’t let them attack the police, the media or anyone else anymore.”

Then there’s the personal touch. “There are many people who want to protest against the mayhem. So, party workers have been asked to visit every home and request people to join. There’s a vast Muslim population that doesn’t support the August 11 rampage. Our Muslim party workers have been told that when they visit friends and relatives on Eid they should tell them to partake in the protest,” said Chitre.

The ban on bulk SMSes is a hindrance. But MNS has been using cable advertisements, social media, BlackBerry Messenger and WhatsApp to compensate. “While every shakha has been asked to bring 200 people, Mumbai itself is likely to provide 50,000 participants.

Leaders from Thane, Kalyan, Navi Mumbai, Pune and Nashik have been asked to fetch up to 20,000 people. Going by this calculation, we expect about 60,000 people to gather at Girgaum Chowpatty. Apart from this Ganesh mandals, social groups and organisations may also join,” Chaubey explained. 

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