In the face of violence unleashed by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), state Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Madhukarrao Pichad exercised restraint and appealed to party activists to remain calm.
In a statement, Pichad said the NCP was prepared to reply to all the issues raised by MNS president Raj Thackeray through the medim of politics.
"The NCP, while criticising other parties, has always remained within the limits of decency, especially when there are father figure personalities involved. We have not been taught to resort to abusive language by our leaders. We are capable of and will tackle this through our political thoughts only," Pichad said in his statement issued on Wednesday afternoon.
Pichad urged party activists not to be vexed by the MNS criticism, and asked them to stay calm and not resort to violence.
Pichad pointed out that the people had always reposed faith in and supported NCP chief and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar in the implementation of his pragmatic development-oriented, secular policies.
"I appeal to all to maintain peace. It is not our culture to gain cheap publicity through wrong means," he said.
Pichad's appeal came in the wake of tensions which erupted between the NCP and MNS activists in Mumbai and other parts of the state on Wednesday following a rally on Tuesday addressed by Raj Thackeray in Ahmednagar.
Angry NCP activists pelted stones at vehicles in Raj Thackeray's convoy and waved black flags at the MNS chief when his vehicle passed Ahmednagar on Tuesday night.
In retaliation, activists of the MNS targeted NCP offices in south Mumbai and its suburbs, as well as in Ahmednagar, Nanded, Akola, Yavatmal, Parbhani, Thane. Private and public vehicles were damaged in the fracas.
The provocation behind the violence is believed to be Thackeray's political rallies, in which he targeted the NCP and its top leaders like Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and state home minister RR 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 own hands, the police and government will deal with them appropriately," Malik warned, adding that details of attacks on NCP offices, workers and other places were being collected.
According to reports, stones were pelted at NCP offices in Thane, Mumbai, Bandra, Ahmednagar and Parbhani, while public transport buses were attacked in Yavatmal, Akola and Nanded.
Police have tightened security and the situation is stated to be under control though reports of minor incidents of violence continued to come from various parts of the state.
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 as part of his ongoing state tour.
To the NCP's discomfiture, he has also raised inconvenient issues and questions pertaining to various departments handled by the NCP in the state government.