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Maharashtra in a bind on ‘goonda’ Raj

The state Govt has sought “legal opinion” on whether Raj can be arrested. Srinand Jha & Ketaki Ghoge report. Exclusive HT poll
By Srinand Jha & Ketaki Ghoge | Hindustan Times, New Delhi/mumbai
UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2008 12:38 AM IST

If Maharashtra is serious about arresting Raj Thackeray, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh seems to be taking time to put him behind bars.

For one, the state has sought “legal opinion” on whether Raj can be arrested. Besides, it seems unlikely that he would be arrested this week given that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be in the state on a two-day visit from Friday.

“For an arrest warrant, we are seeking the legal opinion of the advocate general (Ravi Kadam),” Deshmukh said after meeting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi. “The police action will be taken in accordance to the advice.”

In Mumbai, the state’s Home Department was not forthcoming about the arrest. While sources said Kadam’s report examined the possibility of arresting Raj, Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil said he had not seen the report.

“If we get strong evidence about their involvement in the violence, whether it is Raj Thackeray or Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi, we will arrest them,” he said.

The decision for the arrest ultimately rests with Deshmukh, who is in Delhi, distributing invitation cards for his son Amit’s wedding later this month.

Asked if the state was afraid of a backlash if Raj is arrested when the PM is here, Patil said the police are equipped to tackle any situation. “Bigger leaders had been arrested by the government in the past,” he said, hinting at Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray’s arrest in 2002 by Patil’s predecessor Chhagan Bhujbal.

The senior Thackeray was arrested in a 1992-93 riot case and charged with inciting hatred among communities, the same charges levelled against Raj.

PIL seeks Raj party de-recognition

A PIL seeking de-recognition of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena will come up for hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday. It wants the court to issue direction to the Election Commission in this regard. The plea also wants the court to ask the Centre and state to take action against Raj for his provocative statements.

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