Desperate to revive his ailing party ahead of the crucial civic polls next year, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray fell back to a plan he had tried and tested—asking his cadre to resort to violent agitation. This time, it is about burning down any new auto rickshaws that are spotted on the city’s streets. The reason: Most of the new auto permits are being given to ‘outsiders’ and the government’s decision is aimed to benefit of auto rickshaw manufacturers.
Asking his cadre to hit the streets and vandalise these vehicles, Thackeray said most of the 70,000 new permits required to drive new auto rickshaws were being given to ‘outsiders’ by diluting existing rules. Thackeray, speaking at a function to mark 10 years of his party’s foundation, also alleged that these permits were being issued by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led government hurriedly by bypassing the rules only for the benefit of autorickshaw manufacturers who would be selling vehicles worth Rs1,190 crore.
“I’ve told you what the problem is. Now, I’ll tell you what to do about it. If you see any new auto on the road, get the passenger and the driver out and burn the vehicle down,” he said, to thunderous applause from his party workers.
Thackeray, falling back on his pet peeve against migrants coming to Mumbai, said that the Shiv Sena, which handles the transport department incharge of the auto, taxi permits, was only paying lip service to the cause of Marathi-speaking people. Speaking of the department’s rule to insist on auto and taxi drivers speaking Marathi, Thackeray said, “Why not instead make a rule that only Marathi boys will get these permits? If you really wanted to help Marathi man, you should have done that.”
What Thackeray’s choice of targeting does is conveniently blame both the Sena and the BJP for this, so as to polarise opinion against them, ahead of next year’s civic polls. Thackeray even dared chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to respond to his allegations.
In fact, Thackeray, speaking at a public rally after a long hiatus, clearly spelt out that a return to the party’s militant, identity politics was his plan ahead. Thackeray seemed eager to court controversy, threatening violence on other issues including the levying of the BEST’s transport division loss recovery surcharge as well as the low payment to civic workers. “I will meet officials to sort this out. If they don’t, then our policy is clear,” he said, hinting at the party’s violent agitations.
Adding on, Thackeray lashed out at the judiciary at what he called was their interference over governance matters.