Mumbai: A day after his party’s uncharacteristically peaceful agitation against toll plazas in Maharashtra, MNS chief Raj Thackeray was today back in his element, warning of “wreaking havoc” at houses of toll contractors who use force to collect the levy.
“I appeal to people of Maharashtra not to pay toll till the state government implements changes in the toll policy,” Raj told reporters after meeting Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on the issue.
“If you don’t want to pay toll and if anyone at the toll plaza forcibly makes you to do so, we will wreak havoc at the house of the concerned toll contractor,” the MNS president said.
“Then the government should not blame us,” he said.
“I met Chavan today as per his phone call to me yesterday. He has assured me that the new toll policy will be brought in before the code of conduct for the ensuing elections is implemented,” Raj said.
“The chief minister conceded mistakes in the state’s build, operate, transfer (BOT) policy and said the government will reconsider it,” Raj said.
“Chavan agreed that the condition of roads in the state was bad. He also assured us that the government will wind up all illegal toll booths,” the MNS leader said.
To a query on the success of his party’s anti-toll stir, Raj said, “Anna Hazare had also written to the government against toll. But since our party’s first agitation on the issue, 65 toll booths have been shut. This means that the government understands our language and not that of Hazare.”
Raj, who said the chief minister’s response at the meeting earlier in the day, was “very positive”, had assured that toll collection will be stopped at 22 toll plazas where the project cost was less than Rs 10 crore.
The MNS leader said he has requested Chavan to stop all toll plazas till there is a proper audit of their functioning.
“Our agitation will continue till the government takes the decision. I request people not to pay toll,” he said.
“I went for today’s meeting because Chavan assured me of concrete decisions,” Raj said. “This time, I found the response of the CM very positive. His body language was also positive,” he added.
Recalling that it was in August 2012 that he wrote to the chief minister against toll, Raj said, “when he (Chavan) realised that the MNS agitation will intensify, he decided to hold discussions.”
“I took along some media people to ensure that there are no doubts over what was discussed,” Raj said, explaining the presence of a large media team in the MNS delegation which met the chief minister.
“I pointed out to Chavan that there are 22 PWD and six MSRDC road projects where toll is levied and whose project cost was less than Rs 10 crore each. I asked Chavan whether the financial condition of the state was so low that it has to opt for BOT policy for these projects,” Raj said.
“I gave the example of Karanataka where there is no toll on similar projects. If the neighbouring state can do it, why not Maharashtra,” the MNS leader said.
Raj said he also drew the chief minister’s attention to the large number of accidents on the toll roads. “Several people have been killed on the toll highways. Today, the CM said: there was a mistake on the government’s part.”
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in State Legislative Council Vinod Tawde alleged that the Congress-NCP government wants toll to continue. “There is a nexus between ministers and toll contractors,” Tawde said.