Forty-eight hours before the bandh (forced shutdown) announced by the Opposition — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena — against the fuel price hike, the state government has began gearing up to face the situation.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who has taken charge of the situation, told the media on Saturday: “We will ensure that any person or party that is found responsible for act of violence and arson is legally forced to pay compensation.”
Joint Commissioner of Police (Law & Order) Rajnish Seth has requested citizens to call the police in case of violence.
The government is likely to file a contempt petition against the parties forcing the bandh after Monday. Earlier, it was contemplating to approach the high court on Saturday.
The state government has set its sight on the Supreme Court judgment to prevent the parties from paralysing the city and rest of the state on July 5.
But BJP national president Nitin Gadkari told Hindustan Times from New Delhi that the SC had given the verdict in a specific case. “No government can deny us our democratic right to protest against its wrong policies.”
The police and administration have been preparing to meet any eventuality and bring the unlawful forces to book. Special teams have been formed to perform panchnamas of violent acts and damages, if any. They also rounded up a few Sainiks and MNS activists as a precaution.
The MNS said it was not worried. “Citizens will support us since they are tired of the price hike. We will enforce the bandh since we have been facing police lathis and courts and one more hardly matters,” said MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande.
Sources said the police are considering action against city BJP president Gopal Shetty for his remarks during a party meet in Borivli two days back.
Shetty had exhorted his partymen to attack police stations in case the protestors were rounded up on Monday.
In an apparent bid to escape legal action, BJP and Sena leaders are trying to make their stand clear. “We have informed our workers that they should not be involved in any sort of vandalism and damage public property,” said Shetty.
The Sena on Saturday taunted the state government over its plan to approach the court over the bandh call.
“The government has fallen flat on its face in the Best-Five issue [for junior college admissions] and instead of taking up new issues with the court, they should settle existing ones first,” Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said.
Sources said the state was contemplating to withdraw or minimise police protection given to Sena, BJP and the MNS leaders.