December 2, 2017 4:47:14 am
The feud between the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Mumbai unit of the Congress over the hawker eviction issue took an ugly turn on Friday. Raising the political temperature in the commercial capital, MNS workers allegedly vandalised the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee’s office in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan around 10.30 am. The Congress, keen not to be seen as browbeaten, warned of giving the MNS “a befitting reply” if the chief minister did not ensure “prompt action” against the attackers.
Later, the Azad Maidan police arrested eight MNS partymen, including former MNS corporator Sandeep Deshpande, who was booked for hatching a criminal conspiracy. Six others, who were involved in the attack, were also booked for other charges, including rioting and trespass. Over the past few days, the MNS and Mumbai Congress have been at loggerheads over the hawker eviction controversy, with both parties seeking to draw mileage over it. While the MNS has been taking up violent campaigns for eviction of illegal hawkers, Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam has come out in the support of hawkers, attacking the MNS leadership.
In the run-up to Friday’s violence, leaders from both sides took sharp digs at each another and their workers even came face-to-face on a couple of occasions, but the police may not have anticipated Friday’s turn of events. Nirupam, who was not in Mumbai at the time of Friday’s attack, said, “The MNS’s attack shows how poor the law and order situation in the city and the state is.” Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan targeted CM Devendra Fadnavis, who heads the state’s home department. “It is due to the silence of the government that the MNS is being able to make attempts of ‘terrorising’ Mumbai in this manner.”
While Fadnavis was unavailable for comment, the Mumbai Police issued an official statement, which indicated that the arrested MNS men could face a tough time behind bars. “Individuals or groups that undertake violent protests endangering the safety of life and the property of citizens should be ready to face the wrath of the law, and we shall be harsh while inflicting it.”
It was a tweet from Deshpande which led the police to the MNS men. Within an hour of the incident, the MNS leader went on Twitter, accepting responsibility for the attack at the behest of his party. “The MNS has carried out a ‘surgical strike’ on Nirupam’s office. Tit for tat.”
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