As the Shiv Sena-versus-SRK war rages, another, quieter, war has broken out at Mantralaya, the seat of the state government.
This one is between Chief Minister Ashok Chavan (a Congress leader) and Home Minister R.R. Patil (of the Nationalist Congress Party).
Under tremendous pressure from the Congress high command in New Delhi to rein in the Shiv Sena, which first targeted Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and then Gandhi scion and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Chavan has virtually taken command of the police action against the Sena.
Bypassing Patil — who, as Home minister is de facto head of the city and state police forces — Chavan is now dealing directly with Mumbai Police Commissioner D. Sivanandhan and other senior police officials.
Though Patil has not taken up the matter with Chavan, sources said he has already made his displeasure known.
“Patil is of the opinion that the chief minister is over-reacting because of the pressure from his party,” said a key NCP minister. “Ideally, he should have left it to the police force to tackle the Sena.”
The minister added that Chavan has also said the government will have egg on its face if Khan or the film’s producers back down and apologise to Thackeray.
Mantralaya sources say the Chavan-Patil tussle began last week, a day before Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Mumbai.
Chavan kept Patil out of the preparations for the visit.
On Tuesday, as the Sena began its violent protests across the city, Chavan chose not to rely on Patil — partly, sources said, because Patil’s boss, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, called on Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Sunday to ask his permission for Australian cricketers to play in the city.
Patil began stepping back, choosing not to speak much to the press. When Chavan threatened to recall Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray’s security, Patil was less than effusive in his support for the move.
Sources close to Patil said he was also not keen to withdraw the security of the three Sena legislators who had taken part in protests against Rahul Gandhi’s visit. When the move was ordered by Chavan, the sources said, Patil left it to Sivanandhan to take the call.