It could have been the Shiv Sena vs the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in the battle over who shuts Mumbai down. In the event, it was neither.
Both the Senas lost the political initiative as BJP activists aggressively agitated at various spots and got arrested. The Sena’s participation was more toned down. The MNS, meanwhile, did not come out onto the roads in full strength, making its presence felt selectively. The only senior party leaders who protested were Bala Nandgaonkar and Nitin Sardesai.
The Sena show was nowhere as loud as its alliance partner’s, especially in the suburbs.
The Sena, though, took credit for the bandh and taunted the MNS. “Those who enforced the bandh were on the streets, while those who didn’t were nowhere to be seen,” said Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray.
MNS sources said party chief Raj Thackeray participated in the bandh to shrug off the party’s Congress-friendly image. “There was an impression that we were getting cosy with the Congress because of our support for it during the Legislative Council polls. However, we did not want to use force,” said a key MNS functionary.
“The MNS does not want to be seen as the stooge of the state government, thus allowing the Sena to cash in on the furore over prices,” said B. Venkatesh Kumar, political analyst.
Nilu Damle, another political analyst, said the MNS could not afford to take an extremist position as it was a developing party. “They will take the position the situation demands,” said Damle.
“Do you want us to open the closed shops and pelt stones?” said Chetan Pednekar, MNS students’ wing leader. He said people had been told to shut shop, which they readily agreed to do.
Reacting to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s statement that the bandh failed, Uddhav said: “Even Chavan’s own college in Nanded was shut.”
On the government plan to recover damages from the Opposition, Uddhav said it should first decide whether the bandh was successful or not. “If the government claims that the bandh was unsuccessful, there is no question of anyone paying for it,” he said.