Even as the motormen’s strike raged on, politicians engaged in a game of one-upmanship.
The Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that had prompted motormen to strike work changed its stand as the agitation entered its second day.
Fearing a backlash, they asked for amicable solution through talks. The Left, meanwhile, warned the government of political repercussions if it used force against striking employees.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatened to give motormen a fitting reply, while the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) stayed mum until they saw a solution on the horizon. In encouraging motormen to strike work, the Sena had seen an opportunity to make inroads into the rail unions. However, as public anger boiled over, Sena chief Bal Thackeray asked the Rail Kamgar Sena to withdraw support to the strike, leaving motormen in the lurch. The Sena-BJP then went into damage-control mode.
He said he will continue to fight for “just demands” of the motormen, but they cannot hold the city to ransom.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray was all fire and brimstone as he said: “The MNS will start its trademark agitations against the motormen if they don’t call off the strike by [Tuesday] evening. Everyone knows what happens when the MNS takes to the streets.” MNS workers then stormed several stations. They soon left, but not before getting their share of publicity.
In the afternoon, action centred around Mantralaya, where Chief Minister Ashok Chavan called a special meeting and appointed Home Minister R.R. Patil as the negotiator.
Patil, taking a potshot at the Sena-BJP, said: “It’s [the Sena-BJP’s] double standards that they first supported the strike and later withdrew support.”
Mumbai BJP chief Gopal Shetty blamed Mumbaiites for the strike. “Aren’t people, who elected the Congress, responsible for this?”