MNS violence hits Maharashtra (Third Lead)

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 27, 2013 17:00 hrs

Mumbai, Feb 27 (IANS) Tension triggered by an incident of stone-pelting at Raj Thackeray's convoy led to violence by his MNS party activists who Wednesday torched public and private vehicles, including ambulances, and attacked NCP offices across Maharashtra.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) activists allegedly threw stones at vehicles of Raj Thackeray's convoy early Tuesday at Ahmednagar and waved black flags at the MNS chief when his car passed.

In retaliation, activists of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) targeted NCP offices in south Mumbai and suburbs, as well as Ahmednagar, Nanded, Akola, Yavatmal, Parbhani, Thane and damaged private and public vehicles.

"It (the attack) was pre-planned. The police remained mute spectators. But for the presence of the police, it could have been even worse," Raj Thackeray told reporters Wednesday evening in Ahmednagar after he emerged from a meeting with his party office-bearers.

In an unexpected move, cousin and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray rushed to Raj's support, terming the attack on the latter's convoy as "unwarranted", and challenged the NCP to step out of the Democratic Front government.

Dismissing the charges levelled against him by the MNS, NCP leader and state Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the MNS has always played "emotional politics."

"Let the MNS build at least one institution and end its dramatics," Pawar said Wednesday evening in Mumbai, while dismissing MNS allegations that NCP activists had stoned Thackeray's convoy.

Following NCP state chief Madhukarrao Pichad's appeal to NCP workers to exercise restraint, tempers appeared to have cooled off by Wednesday evening after nearly 18 hours of violence perpetrated by MNS activists in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra.

Around two dozen public and private vehicles, including state transport buses and ambulances, were torched by rampaging MNS activists protesting the stone throwing at Thackeray's convoy in Ahmednagar Tuesday night.

In retaliation, the MNS targeted NCP offices in south Mumbai and suburbs, as well as Pune, Ahmednagar, Nanded, Akola, Yavatmal, Parbhani, Thane and other towns and cities.

During his ongoing political tour and public rallies, Thackeray has targeted the NCP and its top leaders like Sharad Pawar, nephew Ajit Pawar and Home Minister R.R. Patil.

"In democratic politics, anybody is free to criticise anybody. But, how will activists digest the kind of abusive language used by him (Raj Thackeray)? This is absolutely deplorable," an agitated NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told IANS Wednesday.

"If anybody takes the law in their hands, the police and government shall deal with them appropriately," Malik warned, adding that details of attacks on NCP offices, workers and other places were being collected.

Virtually shifting into poll mode for next year's Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly elections, Thackeray has been attacking top NCP leaders at well-attended rallies and is expected to speak out his mind again in Jalgaon March 2.

To the NCP's discomfiture, he has also raised uncomfortable issues and questions pertaining to various departments handled by the NCP in the state government.

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