'Uddhav has told the cops to crack down hard on the MNS agitation if MNS activists try to vitiate the communal harmony in the state.'
With Maharashtra Navnirman Sena founder Raj Thackeray adamant on the chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques that broadcast the azaan at loud decibel levels or in violation of the Supreme Court's directives, his cousin and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has asked the state police to come down heavily on the MNS agitation if it leads to a violation of law and order.
And with the May 3 deadline issued by Raj Thackeray to the state government to remove loudspeakers from mosques coming to an end without the state government heeding Raj's diktat, the battle between the Thackeray cousins is set to hit a new high in the days ahead.
Even as Raj strives to reinvent himself as 'Hindu Jan-Nayak' -- a climb down from his days of being projected as 'Hinduhriday Samrat' ala his late uncle Balasaheb Thackeray -- his elder cousin Uddhav is ready to prove his credentials as the true heir to his father's political legacy.
"Uddhav has told the cops in no ambiguous terms to crack down hard on the MNS agitation if MNS activists try to vitiate the communal harmony in the state," a senior Shiv Sena leader close to the chief minister tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com over the phone on WhatsApp (Interestingly, no leader wants to talk on telecom networks for the fear of being tapped).
"If push comes to shove, the Maharashtra CM has asked the home ministry to consider the option of arresting Raj Thackeray if he doesn't backtrack on his agitational approach against the use of loudspeakers atop mosques or if it leads to violence in the state," adds this Sena leader, speaking on condition that he wold not be identified in this report.
"The home ministry is keeping its option open to book Raj Thackeray under a section more serious than rajdroh (sedition) which was slapped against the BJP-sponsored Rana couple. The charge of sedition is untenable against (Raj) Thackeray right now," adds a senior police officer, who also does not want to reveal his identity and who is privy to discussions at a meeting called by state Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil.
"Uddhav saheb has asked the home department to gear up all its might to crush the MNS agitation. The Congress and NCP are also in favour of playing hardball with the MNS, and the BJP, by proxy, this time," says the Shiv Sena leader.
According to him, all three constituents of the Maharashtra government are determined to send a message to those trying to create trouble for the Uddhav-led administration in the state.
"Uddhav doesn't want to be seen as a weak CM while dealing with the irritants vitiating the communal harmony in the state," says a senior Congress minister in the state government.
"Of all the old cases registered against Raj Thackeray, the state home ministry, after a strong nudge from the chief minister, decided to rake up a case involving MNS violence against north Indians," he adds.
"The non-bailable arrest warrant issued (at Shirala in Sangli district in 2008) against Raj Thackeray and MNS leader Shirish Parkar is part of a strategy to expose Raj Thackeray's double standards as he tries to become the messiahs of Hindus," says this minister.
"Let the world ask why Raj Thackeray did not consider north Indians as Hindus while bashing them up. Let our north Indian brothers and sisters ask the newly anointed 'Hindu Jan-Nayak' if he is okay with north Indians taking up the jobs of Marathi manoos in the Railways or other state government jobs," says this minister.
"Let them ask the 'Hindu Jan-Nayak' if his goons will not beat up north Indian 'bhaiyyas' (a pejorative term often used for north Indians) who earn their livelihood by selling vegetables or who come to Mumbai or Kalyan to appear in competitive exams," adds the minister.
The chief minister himself is taking the lead on the Raj Thackeray matter. Uddhav was not happy with the way in which Home Minister Walse-Patil handled the pen drive controversy raised by Devendra Fadnavis, leader of the Opposition in the state assembly.
Uddhav had expressed his displeasure to the home minister and his party boss Sharad Pawar, reveals the afore-mentioned senior Shiv Sena leader.
'We must not play defensive when such charges are hurled at the government. We need to smash such conspiracy charges with an iron fist,' Uddhav had told Pawar and Walse-Patil. 'We should not forget that we are the ruling party.'
"Uddhav had gone to the extent of telling Pawar to replace Walse-Patil. Since Pawar was not amenable to such a drastic step a compromise was struck whereby the NCP assured the chief minister of Walse-Patil's aggression," says this Shiv Sena leader.
"It is the same aggression that will come into play in the days ahead in the wake of the MNS agitation," the Sena leader adds.
One such action that has the stamp of Uddhav's style of aggression is the issuance of a tadipar (externment) order by the Bandra, north west Mumbai, police against the MNS's Tushar Aphale.
Aphale, Raj's Bandra Vibhag Pramukh (divisional head), along with eight others have been ordered to leave the city limits immediately by the Bandra police.
"The Bandra police sent us the order to leave the city on WhatApp. Interestingly, many of our office bearers from different police stations were given 24 hours to explain their position or face expulsion from within the city limits," Aphale tells Rediff.com over the phone, refusing to disclose his location as the expulsion order issued against him was already in force.
"The Mumbai police are definitely under pressure from their political bosses to act against MNS workers. Even hardcore criminals are given time to explain their position before being expelled. The Bandra police have asked me to leave Mumbai with immediate effect," says Aphale who plans to "appeal against this order, which is bad in law, in the Bombay high court."
According to Aphale, the Mumbai police has issued more than 500 notices to MNS workers under Section 144, more than 800 notices under Section 149 (unlawful assembly), 172 notices under Section 151(3) (arrest for cognisable offence) and more than 15,000 preventive arrests of MNS cadres in the Mumbai Metropolitan region.