As reports of the clashes started pouring in from different parts of Maharashtra, the NCP swung into action. According to party sources, instructions came from none other than party chief Sharad Pawar to restrain workers from violence.
A hush-hush meeting followed soon after a cabinet meeting at Sahyadri state guesthouse, chaired by Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, the prime target of MNS chief Raj Thackeray. State Home Minister RR Patil, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Minister of State Sachin Ahir and state party chief Madhukar Pichad were present during the meeting to discuss the fallout of the clash.
It was decided to issue an appeal for peace signed by Pichad, sources said, in line with the instructions from Sharad Pawar, who was reportedly put off by the day’s events. “If the conflict continued, it was for the NCP to pay the price since it is the party in power. The top brass feels the MNS can go ahead with any kind of violence as it has nothing to lose, being no more than an opposition party,” a source said. Home minister Patil said situation in the state was under control and things would be back to normal within a day or two. “Nothing to worry about,” he said.
The clashes sparked off with an incident at Bhingar in Ahmednagar district, a stop in the MNS chief’s state-wide campaign, where he reached on Tuesday. According to reports, a group of NCP workers was waiting with black flags to greet Raj Thackeray to protest his ‘below-the-belt’ comments on Ajit Pawar and other NCP leaders during his recent rallies and media briefings at Solapur and other places.
Some workers allegedly resorted to stone pelting at Thackeray’s convoy. This sparked off violent reactionary protests by the MNS on Wednesday morning, which rapidly spread to other parts of the state. Notably, it was Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to rush to support to his estranged cousin that raised eyebrows in the political circle. He not only condemned the alleged stone pelting by NCP workers but dared the party to come face to face without any police protection.
Interestingly, Thackeray has rejected Shiv Sena’s recent overtures hinting at a merger. Uddhav had in an interview to his party mouthpiece Saamana, said, “Make us sit together and ask the question (whether the Sena and MNS will come together).” Uddhav’s decision to support Raj is being viewed as another attempt to win sentiments of both the Sena workers.