WHAT ASHOK Kelkar saw at Shivaji Park on Sunday morning gave Shiv Sainiks the chance to go on the offensive -- in Mumbai and across Maharashtra.
Kelkar, a party activist, saw that a statue of the late Meenatai, wife of Sena chief Bal Thackeray, placed at the entrance of the park, had been desecrated by some miscreants.
By 8 a.m., a huge mob gathered outside Sena Bhavan and Shivaji Park. The police station near the park was vandalised; a tourist bus parked opposite the Sena Bhavan was set on fire.
Within hours, scores of Sainiks came out on the streets in Dadar, Malad, Thane and other Sena pockets. They blocked roads, set buses afire, forced shops to close and pelted stones at passing vehicles. For a while, Mumbai seemed under siege.
The ripple effect was felt elsewhere too as the Sainiks resorted to violence in Nashik, Pune, Aurangabad and other areas of influence.
By evening, two buses had been torched and 38 damaged in stone-pelting, two persons had been injured and over 500 arrested across Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi defended the action of the Sainiks. "Maasaheb was our mother figure and no one would tolerate an insult to one's mother," he said.
Political analysts, however, said the show of strength was a political necessity for the Sena -- to prove that the party is far from finished.