Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray vowed to intensify the party's ongoing protests against toll charges with him personally leading them by blocking roads across the state starting February 12.
Breaking his silence first time after police booked him for inciting the violence against the toll plazas, Thackeray at a well-attended rally in Pune on Sunday said, "On February 12, I will personally lead the party's agitation to block roads in the state. Let them arrest and stop me if they have the guts."
Thackeray said his agitation would continue till the government shuts down those toll plazas which have completed their tenures. "No one can buy me with money," he warned.
In a 35-minutes speech, Thackeray launched an all out attack against the state government for the toll. The toll issue has become a critical one in the state with every party raking it up ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Thackeray said he would personally not pay tolls despite notices sent to him asking for payment, which he refused to pay earlier while traveling across the state.
Thackeray's Sunday rally was seen as launch of election campaign though he denied it. For Thackeray's rally, many MNS workers including his wife Sharmila, did not pay toll on their way to Pune.
The MNS chief mocked chief minister Prithviraj Chavan by calling him, "Manmohan Singh without a turban," for his inability to solve the issue. "I met the chief minister four times, apprising him about the toll issue. He accepted that there were discrepancies in the toll collection but expressed inability saying his hands were tied because of the alliance government," Thackeray said. He addat that not paying toll was the only option left to his party.
Thackeray alleged that ministers in the ruling Congress-NCP government use money being collected from the toll for the election funds. "I understand that closing tolls totally could be financially unviable. But if the money being collected from tolls is going into the pockets of ministers as election funds, then we will not pay such toll."
Attacking the Shiv Sena for taking him on during the recent toll agitation, Thackeray said, "I don't know on whose side Shiv Sena is. Because when I fought against toll, they criticised me like a supporter of government."
He also criticised public works minister and senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal in his trademark mimicry. "Bhujbal says even the central government charges toll. But center follows rules while charging toll, which is not happening in the state."
Reffering to Bhujbal's statement that toll is being charges in Gujrat also, MNS chief said, "I have personally gone to Gujrat and saw all traffic rules are being followed there."
The MNS chief also criticised the state government for "lax approach" in dealing with security matters. Thackeray said, anyone with the evil intention can cause damage using the red becons, which are easily available in the open market.