Slap in Delhi hits city hard

Despite NCP chief Sharad Pawar's appeal to party workers to not resort to vandalism after attack on him, buses in city damaged in stone-pelting, major roads blocked during protests; Mayor Rajpal calls for bandh today, then says decision will be reviewed as higher-ups don't want to inconvenience public.

ROADS were blocked, buses attacked and protest rallies held in the city as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) went in for statewide protests yesterday after party chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was slapped by a man earlier in the day in Delhi.

Taking to the roads: NCP workers block Swargate chowk yesterday;
protesters at Shivajinagar burn tyres and stop buses

Despite a categorical appeal by Pawar to party cadres and supporters to not indulge in vandalism to protest against the assault on him, NCP city president Vandana Chavan and Mayor Mohansingh Rajpal announced a day-long bandh in the city tomorrow on behalf of the party.

Demonstrators lie down on the road to stop traffic in Pimpri-Chinchwad;
shops are made to down shutters in Pimpri-Chinchwad. Pics/Krunal
Gosavi, Navnath Kaple and Ishan Ghosh

Earlier in the day, protests by NCP activists erupted in several parts of the city and Pimpri-Chinchwad, some of which turned violent with attacks on pubic transport buses. Rajpal said later that the bandh decision would be reconsidered. Rajpal also pointed fingers at opposition parties and called the incident a political conspiracy. "We will do a rethink on our decision to call a bandh on Friday. We have been told by our senior leaders not to inconvenience the people," he said.

A large group of supporters led by MLC Anil Bhosale staged a rasta-roko at Shimla Office Square in the afternoon, resulting in major traffic snarl. The protesters, who were shouting slogans in support of Pawar, blocked roads by throwing burning tyres.

Elsewhere, Chavan and Rajpal held separate protests with large groups of supporters. Chavan led a protest at Swargate while Rajpal led a demonstration at Abhinav Square, leading to traffic congestion in both areas. Party secretary Ranjit Pardeshi led a two-wheeler protest rally from MG Road to the party office on Tilak Road. "We did not resort to any kind of violent act and have protested in a peaceful manner," Pardeshi said.

Pardeshi said the protesters also burned a poster of Singh. In Pimpri-Chinchwad, NCP workers blocked traffic at the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Chowk on the Pune-Mumbai highway for an hour. Local NCP leaders and workers also asked shops and other commercial establishments to down shutters. The political leaders who joined the protests included Pimpri-Chinchwad Mayor Yogesh Behl and NCP Pimpri-Chinchwad president Azam Pansare. To cope with the protests, the police stepped up the security in the city. Extra forces were deployed in the sensitive areas and adequate security was provided to gurudwaras in the city.

The attack on Pawar also drew strong condemnation from all political parties in the city. BJP leader Eknaath Pawar denied Singh had any connection with the BJP or the RSS. He said the party condemned the attack on the NCP president, but added that the attack was an outcome of the anger felt by the public over the way things were being run in the country. "People are now venting their anger," he said.

Number of PMPML buses that were reportedly damaged in stone-pelting incidents at different places. Three buses of the MSRTC were also said to have suffered damage.

Slapgate in Delhi
After attending a literary function in New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), Pawar was slapped by a man who was later identified as Harvinder Singh and who reportedly blamed Pawar for the rise in prices of essential commodities. Singh had also assaulted former telecom minister Sukhram on the Rohini court campus in Delhi a couple of days ago.

100 per cent bandh in Baramati
SHARAD Pawar's hometown and stronghold Baramati saw a complete shutdown after a bandh was called when news of the assault on the NCP chief reached the city. According to locals, all shops, including medical shops, and schools and colleges closed for the day. Protests were held in all major chowks in the city. According to Baramati police, in the afternoon a protest meeting was organised at Bhigvan Chowk. Thursday being the day of loadshedding, the news reached the city through mobile phones. The weekly bazaar was shut down immediately after this. Protests were also organised at MIDC chowk, Indapur chowk and Gandhi chowk, said NCP youth wing president Narayan Thorave.

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