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MNS chief Raj Thackeray to lead march to show anger over Mumbai stampede; brace for traffic snarls

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s march, in the wake of the Elphinstone Road bridge stampede, will start from Metro Cinema at 11.30am and will end at Churchgate railway station

mumbai Updated: Oct 05, 2017 11:35 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath
Hindustan Times
Maharshtra Navnirman Sena,MNS,Raj Thackeray
The MNS has marshalled its resources to make the march a success(FILE)

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray is all set to lead a protest march in south Mumbai today to demand better rail infrastructure for train commuters, after last week’s stampede at Elphinstone Road station, which claimed 23 lives.

The march has been denied police permission, but is likely to be held anyway. Thackeray will start the march from Metro cinema and go up to the Western Railway headquarters at Churchgate station. It means that there will be a huge traffic jam in and around south Mumbai starting around 11.30 am, as the MNS cadre is expected to turn up in large numbers for a show of strength.

MNS supporters reach Metro cinema (Pratik Chorge/HT)

At Churchgate, Thackeray will meet senior railway officials and demand an answer on how they plan to improve Mumbai’s overburdened rail network and infrastructure. He will address the crowd after this.

The party hopes there will be a huge turn-up for its agitation as the stampede, which took place on an old, narrow foot-over bridge at Elphinstone Road station during the morning peak hours on September 29, has built strong resentment against railway and state officials for their indifference and neglect concerning the city’s rail infrastructure.

The MNS, which has been struggling to stay relevant since its defeat in the polls, is looking to garner attention and support with this campaign, and has marshalled all its resources to make it a success.

After announcing the march, it got active on social media, releasing a series of videos and posts asking Mumbaiites to take to the streets to express their discontent.

Cops at the spot. (Pratik Chorge/HT)

In its latest video, well-known Marathi actors such as Shivaji Satam and Siddharth Jadhav have appealed to people to participate in the agitation.

This is the first time in five years that the MNS chief is actually stepping out on the streets for a protest. In 2012, he had held a rally protesting the mishandling of the CST riots. Thackeray had marched from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan demanding that both then Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik and then state Home Minister RR Patil be sacked. The Democratic Front government had conceded to his demand partially by showing Patnaik the door.

After the recent stampede, Thackeray appealed to people to come out on the streets while addressing the media. “Nothing will move till you hit the streets. This morcha is meant to express your anger,” he said, a day after the tragedy. “We will seek explanation from them. We will also give them a deadline to beef up things, and if they fail to adhere to it, we will deal with it MNS style.”

Political analysts said the MNS chief is trying hard to capitalise on people’s anger. “Raj is exploring the possibility to make a comeback as the MNS has lost its momentum in the last few years. But he needs to keep up the momentum as just highlighting one or two issues is not going to help,” said political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar.

First Published: Oct 05, 2017 11:04 IST