It causes embarrassment to Raj Thackeray and party

Mumbai : The anticipation for the rasta rook campaign, called by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president, Raj Thackeray, seemed to carry more weight than the very campaign. In the eyes of the public it was a total washout and caused embarrassment to Thackeray and his party. It was all there for the public to see since Tuesday evening, with Thackeray pleading to his workers to protest in a peaceful way, something way out of their character. For once, the public saw the police getting a free hand with no political interference. On Wednesday morning, when Thackeray’s convoy reached Chunabhatti, the police cover was laid bare to ensure that Thackeray didn’t reach Vashi toll naka. The police had already taken preventive action since the previous night, arresting nearly 1,000 workers by the day of the protest.

Thackeray was requested not to proceed further and when he refused, he was asked to step aside. Instead, Thackeray went to the police van to get himself arrested, accused the Nationalist Congress Party. “When Thackeray realized he had lost public support, he decided to put up a drama. He went and sat inside the police vehicle to get himself arrested. The rasta roko was a complete flop show,” said Nawab Malik, NCP national spokesperson. The fact is that the government for once seemed in charge of the situation, ensuring that life in the city was normal. In the morning itself, the Chief Minister at the inauguration of the separate driveway to T-2 Terminus informed the media that he was willing to meet Thackeray.

This was even before the MNS leader had made any attempts to leave for Chembur. Prithviraj Chavan said, “I will meet Thackeray on Thursday and have given him time in the morning. The government is always open to hear the views of the Opposition party and we are open to talk with MNS.” The Congress party termed the campaign as a ‘fiasco.’ The spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “If Thackeray wanted to meet the CM, there was no need to call for this rasta roko in the first place. Thackeray is aware that the government plans to announce a new toll policy and he doesn’t want the CM or our government to get the credit.” The fact is that the State government didn’t want to repeat the mistakes the UPA-2 government made while dealing with the Aam Admi Party protests. There is a general angst against the government, making people identify with political leaders leading agitations. Any strong action against the agitating leaders is now seen as a bad exercise. While many construed the action till now as sluggish, on Wednesday, the government came out a winner.

The day was near to normal across the State, barring a few incidents. The presence of MNS workers was mostly in Mumbai and Aurangabad, despite preventive arrests. However, the biggest impact Thackeray got and is seen as a huge setback is in Nasik and Pune. The workers did not come out on the streets to protest. Sources within MNS said that workers were disappointed. The previous protests during which they participated, these workers were arrested and slapped with cases. “Their grouse is that nobody from MNS helped them with bail amount or their families financially,” said the source. The fact is that MNS workers have been left to fend for themselves.

The Bharatiya Janta Party saw this protest as a build-up exercise for Thackeray himself. “He is trying to address his voters. He isn’t eyeing the general elections. This is a build-up for the Assembly elections. However, it is evident that Thackeray has got isolated. First, he criticized Modi unnecessarily and now this rasta roko, which flopped,” said the BJP leader.

Neeta Kolhatkar

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