About a month ago, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray was witnessed steering ailing cousin and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav in his car from Lilavati Hospital to Matoshree. At the time, many construed this as a sign of thawing of relations and, perhaps, an alignment in the future. What many overlooked was the fact that even on that day Raj had chosen to be in the driver’s seat.
So, when the otherwise vociferous Shiv Sena did little more than delve into its repertoire of colourful adjectives for the government following the Azad Maidan violence, the younger Thackeray cousin saw this as an opportunity to go full throttle ahead and grab the initiative.
Known for his penchant for usurping issues — like ‘Sons of Soil’ and ‘Marathi’ — that Shiv Sena may have let slip, Raj knows his party has emerged impressively, but it has a lot of ground to make up to establish itself as a potent political force in the state.
Fittingly, the banners and posters for the protest put up by MNS at major junctions in the city simply say ‘If not today then never’, with an appeal for citizens to come out in support of the police personnel and media persons who were beaten up by rioters on August 11. While the city police has granted him permission only for a protest gathering at Azad Maidan and not a rally, Raj has proclaimed he will go ahead with his plans.
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray yesterday hit out at the Maharashtra government for handling of the Azad Maidan violence and accused commissioner Arup Patnaik of demoralising the police force.
“When police were being attacked, when women police personnel were being molested, Mumbai’s police commissioner Arup Patnaik was growling at those who were trying to control the radicals indulging in violence. The morale of Mumbai police has been dented because of such a police commissioner,” Thackeray alleged, in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamna.
“The country is going to pay the price for stifling the fighting spirit of the police force,” he said. The editorial also had dedicated paragraphs that talked about the 1992-93 riots. Also, Uddhav Thackeray yesterday visited the Amar Jawan memorial that was desecrated by demonstrators on August 11.