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Thackeray continues his outsider tirade

Even as MNS chief Raj Thackeray continued with his tirade against the North Indians, conflicting views within are preventing the UPA from initiating a strong, administrative action against him, report Naresh Kamath, Saroj Nagi and Varghese K George.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2008 00:28 IST

Even as Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray continued with his tirade against the North Indians — albeit less aggressively — conflicting views within are preventing the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) from initiating a strong, administrative action against him.

Congress heads the governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra.

Defying a judicial order of restraint, Thackeray addressed a press conference on Friday to announce a conditional permission for North Indians in Maharashtra to celebrate Chhat Puja on November 4, the festival to worship the Sun.

“I was never opposed to any religious festival but to the display of rajakiya nautankis (political dramas),” Thackeray said, amending his earlier position that the Chhat would not be allowed in Mumbai.

“Majority of the people who attend the Ramleela are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and I had no problems with them. However, the recently organised Chhat Pujas were just political events aimed as a show of strength,” he said.

The current round of Thackeray’s violent campaign began on October 19, attacking North Indian candidates appearing for a railway examination. Thackeray, unapologetic over the violence, said he was being singled out.

“They (the North Indians) have been attacked in Assam, Manipur... even Delhi Chief Minister has criticised them.

“Only when I talk, the prime minister takes notice,” he said.
The split in the UPA and Congress on the issue surfaced during a meeting of the Union Cabinet on Thursday.

Congress leader and Union Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy expressed disappointment over his party’s “soft approach” towards people inciting violence in Maharashtra, said sources. Reddy told the Cabinet that the Congress was perceived to be not doing enough to prevent the one-sided violence against Hindi speakers.

“This is going to be, politically, very costly for the party,” he said, according to a senior UPA leader.

Congress’s Kapil Sibal and RJD’s Prem Chand Gupta argued that Raj Thackeray be arrested under the National Security Act (NSA), while LJP’s Ramvilas Paswan, supported by Union Mminister H R Bharadwaj called for a judicial inquiry also.

“But the Congress is either unable or unwilling to act,” said an RJD minister.

Congress ministers from Maharashtra, Sushil Kumar Shinde and A R Antulay, kept away from the Cabinet meeting — an apparent effort to dissociate from the discussion on the MNS issue.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar also skipped the Cabinet meeting.

Many stalwarts in the ruling NCP-Congress alliance in Maharashtra apparently fear that any strong action against MNS will lead to a Marathi consolidation against the combine.

First Published: Nov 01, 2008 00:21 IST