The bitter fight between the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spilled on to the streets on Wednesday as MNS workers resorted to violence, to protest stones being pelted at party chief Raj Thackeray’s convoy in Ahmednagar late on Tuesday.
As party workers vandalised NCP offices, damaged vehicles and enforced bandh across the state, Thackeray alleged the atta-ck on his convoy was pre-planned and that the police had remained silent onlookers. Raj said he would speak about the incident at his next rally in Jalna.
Deputy chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar asked the MNS to desist from “a smear campaign against the NCP or then face a befitting reply”.
Addressing party workers at Guhagar, Ratnagiri, Pawar said: “Some people are trying to defame our party. If they resort to such nautanki [theatrics], we will give a befitting reply.”
Stones were thrown at Raj’s convoy in Ahmednagar after he criticised Ajit Pawar and taunted him for living off his uncle, Sharad Pawar.
In Mumbai, MNS workers vandalised the NCP’s offices near Regal cinema, Dadar and at the BMC headquarters. The Khar police arrested MNS legislator Ram Kadam and five workers for rioting, after they set an NCP banner on fire. They got bail later.
The Kurla police arrested four MNS workers for allegedly setting a car on fire to create tension in the area.
“The accused brought a car and set it ablaze. People panicked, started leaving their cars on the road and running. There was also a traffic snarl,” said Prabhakar Satam, ACP, Kurla division.
In another incident, police arrested 11 MNS workers from LBS Marg for trying to burn Ajit Pawar’s effigy.
Some stone-pelting incidents were reported in Chembur, Kurla, Antop Hill and Bandra, the police said, while shop owners downed their shutters in Kanjurmarg.
MNS workers also blocked the Mumbai-Goa highway for an hour and tried to stage raasta roko on Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
In Ambarnath, MNS workers tried to enforce a bandh and attacked the NCP office. The party’s offices in Thane, Yavatmal, Nanded, Parbhani, Akola and Ahmednagar were also attacked.
“We won’t rest till NCP apologises. We will not tolerate any insult to our leader,” Kadam said.
Late on Wednesday, MNS legislator Nitin Sardesai appealed to party workers to maintain peace.
“The reaction was justified, but workers must exercise restraint as the state is facing drought and the board exams are going no,” Sardesai said.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik called the MNS protests a publicity stunt to capture headlines.
“Our volunteers did not stone his car. We refuse to get cowered by this kind of street violence and abusive language,” he said.
Political experts said the issue has got aggravated as both parties are determined to show their strength in view of the 2014 elections. “There is no doubt that both are eyeing the elections,” said Prakash Bal, political commentator.
“Both parties want to become strong regional forces and are indulging in gimmicks to attract workers and attention.”