Parties weigh political mileage from controversy

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi, Oct 21 | Updated: Oct 23 2008, 05:00am hrs
It was pressure from the troika of RJD, LJP and the Samajwadi Party that led to the Vilasrao Deshmukh government in Maharashtra taking strong action against MNS chief Raj Thackeray and marked his arrest in the early morning on Tuesday for inciting violence against north Indians.

Even as political circles here on Tuesday afternoon debated whether the belated action would eventually turn to the advantage of the fledgling Maharashtra Navnirman Sena set up by Raj Thackeray, sources indicated that precipitative steps were taken after Lalu Prasad, Ramvilas Paswan and Amar Singh separately held discussions with the Congress leadership including Sonia Gandhi as well as the NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

Taking umbrage at the violence unleashed by MNS activists on north Indian examinees at railway recruitment centres in Mumbai last week citing inadequate representation to locals, they are understood to have curtly told both Gandhi as well as Pawar that their patience was running out and Thackeray would have to be reined in. The home ministry portfolio in Maharashtra is held by NCP nominee RR Patil.

However, following the arrest of Raj Thackrey, the Congress promptly stepped in to stake claim for the strong action. It is only the Congress which has immediately taken such strong measure to ensure that the rule of law prevails, party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters, adding that the NDA-led state of Orissa had turned a blind eye for several days when Christian minorities were attacked and killed in Kandhamal.

Rahul Gandhi, who is travelling in Uttaranchal, also slammed Raj Thackeray for his anti-north Indian campaign and accused him of indulging in divisive politics. What Raj Thackeray is doing is wrong. This is dividing the country, Rahul said during an interaction with hill students.

If you start identifying yourself as a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian, the differences would only grow. A Bal Thackeray would use it and someone else in some other state. There is no end to this divisive politics, he said.

The Shiv Sena, on the other hand, trying to score over the MNS, warned of a bigger movement in Maharashtra if the government does not give preference to the locals in railway jobs. Senior Sena leader Manohar Joshi said in the Rajya Sabha that the people in Maharashtra would not tolerate outsiders coming to the state. Outsiders will come (to Maharashtra). This will not go on, Joshi said sparking protests from Left and RJD members.