Day after Raj convoy attack, MNS, NCP supporters clash

DF

The simmering tension between the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Nationalist Congress Party escalated into fullblown violence on Wednesday. Party workers, egged on by their leaders Raj Thackeray and Ajit Pawar, stoned buses and attacked each other's offices across the state.

Thackeray, who has been on a tour of drought-hit areas over the last two weeks, has taken repeated digs at NCP leaders Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar, R R Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal. At Bhingar in Ahmednagar district, Raj's convoy was stoned, allegedly by NCP workers. While the NCP denied it, workers from both parties turned aggressive not just in Mumbai where the MNS is strong, but also in Thane, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Yavatmal, Bhandara, Akola and Buldana.

In Mumbai, sporadic violence was reported in several areas. In Kurla, several MNS workers were arrested after a car was set on fire. Among those arrested was MLA Ram Kadam, who was later released on bail.

Uddhav Thackeray extended support to his cousin Raj. "All political parties in the opposition should unite in the battle against NCP," Uddhav said.

The NCP appeared to speak in two voices. While state NCP president Madhukar Picchad dispatched letters to district chiefs asking them to observe restraint and avoid clashes, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar exhorted NCP workers, "There is no reason to go on the defensive. Give a befitting reply to the MNS in their own style and show your might."

As the violence spread, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan held discussions with top police officers and directed them to deploy additional forces. When contacted, Chavan said, "I don't want to comment on MNS-NCP politics. The government will ensure there is no law and order problem in state."

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