MNS rally in Thane today: Raj Thackeray to continue with anti-hawkers agenda

Venue is significant as it is in Thane that MNS workers started their anti-hawkers campaign; aggressive show of strength expected on Saturday

mumbai Updated: Nov 18, 2017 13:33 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath
Hindustan Times
MNS chief Raj Thackeray along with supporters at his October 5 protest march.(Pratik Chorge/HT)

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray will address a public meeting in Thane on Saturday evening, expected to be an aggressive show of strength by his party, which has taken on a violent, confrontational stand on the anti-hawkers, anti-migrants issue.

The venue, Thane, is significant as it is here that on October 21, the MNS started its anti-hawkers campaign, with party workers ransacking stalls and driving away hawkers in the vicinity of Thane railway station. MNS workers had gone on a rampage, claiming that the 15-day deadline Thackeray had issued to railway authorities during his October 5 protest march, following the Elphinstone Road station stampede, had lapsed, and that they were doing what the authorities should have done. Thackeray had warned that either the Railways evict hawkers, or his party workers would do it.

Speaking of Saturday’s rally, MNS secretary Sachin More said he expects it to be successful as there is a lot of enthusiasm, especially among train commuters. “Thane was the place where the whole anti-hawkers agitation started, and today, most railway stations are free of hawkers. Now , commuters can walk easily and even buses have a smooth ride,” More said.

Since October 21, the MNS has been actively targeting hawkers, ransacking their wares and evicting them forcefully. Last month, MNS leader Sushant Malavade was injured after a group of hawkers allegedly attacked him with iron rods close to Malad police station, for his role in their eviction.

Most people squarely blame the Railways for the tragedy, which they believe occurred because of a blatant neglect of rail infrastructure and indifference towards commuters’ issues, one of which was illegal hawkers occupying space on already overcrowded rail premises such as foot over-bridges. Since the incident, the MNS has taken an aggressive anti-hawkers stand .

The party has been trying to get back in the limelight and regain its popularity and relevance in Maharashtra ever since its abysmal performance in the 2014 elections where it won seats in single digits in both the state Assembly and the Mumbai civic body besides losing hold of the Nashik municipal body. Thackeray is trying to exploit the hawkers issue and has even threatened to file contempt proceedings against ward officers and railway officials if hawkers are spotted in areas prohibited by the court. He is expected to focus more on the agitations at the rally.

Political analysts, however, don’t believe that such rallies will boost the party’s prospects. “MNS agitations are episodic, and there is no consistency in the party. Just giving speeches has no effect unless the party has strong grassroot-level support, which the MNS lacks,” said political commentator Prakash Bal.

First Published: Nov 18, 2017 13:31 IST