BY FLYNN REMEDIOS: The feud between the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Mumbai Congress unit chief Sanjay Nirupam over the hawkers issue today took a violent turn after MNS workers allegedly vandalized the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) office here. What is more surprising however, is Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis complete silence on the issue and no condemnation has been issued by the CM over this act of violence even 24 hours later.
The MRCC, headed by Sanjay Nirupam, had backed the hawkers over their right to livelihood. The MNS has begun an agitation to oust them from the metropolis following the September 29 stampede at Elphinstone Railway Station in which 22 died when passengers seeking shelter from rain had crowded an over-bridge.
In fact, MRCC head Sanjay Nirupam tweeted today evening that CM Fadnavis could have a tacit understanding between the Mumbai unit of the BJP and the MNS, a deft move to reign in both the Congress and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
Several political observers in Mumbai were surprised that the CM did not immediately condemn the incident and stayed away from the issue. This is being seen by many as an indirect support to the Raj Thackeray-led MNS, though not too long ago, MNS corporators had supported the Shiv Sena in the BMC, spurning overtures of the Mumbai BJP unit.
The MNS claimed responsibility for the attack at the MRCC office at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai.
“The MNS has carried out a ‘surgical strike’ on Nirupam’s office. (It is) tit for tat,” MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande said.
Nirupam had come out in support of hawkers against whom the MNS had launched an agitation following a stampede at the Elphinstone railway station on September 29. Nirupam and the MNS workers had later clashed in north Mumbai.
The Mumbai Congress and the MNS have been at loggerheads for the past few weeks over the issue of illegal hawkers. While MNS workers have been attacking hawkers, the Congress has been supporting their right to livelihood. The MNS has also been pointing fingers at Nirupam for the attack on some of its workers in two separate incidents in Mumbai in the last three weeks – it claims his support to hawkers led to the attack.
“The incident occurred at around 11.30 am. Two persons entered the MRCC office and vandalised it with the help of paver blocks and stones,” a police official said.
The windows and glasses of Nirupam’s cabin were damaged, he said.
“We are examining CCTV footage,” Vasant Wakhare, senior police inspector of Azad Maidan police station, told PTI.
Nirupam claimed the attack showed the frustration of the MNS and said that they have lost the support of the Marathi manoos.
“I can understand the frustration of the MNS whose workers are being beaten up by hawkers regularly. Their attack on our office is a cowardly act. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis must act fast or a befitting reply will be given for sure,” he said.
“The MNS workers vandalised our party office when nobody was there. The police station is just 25 metres away,” Nirupam claimed.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress chief and former chief minister Ashok Chavan condemned the attack and said the fight with ideology should be through ideology only.
The Shiv Sena had said on Saturday that Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis should withdraw his “irresponsible” statement lauding the contribution of “outsiders” to Mumbai. This was an indirect jibe at the CM, which was seen as a word of support for Nirupam’s team. However, Fadnavis has refrained from making any direct comment on the ongoing feud between the NIrupam-led Mumbai Congress unit and the MNS.
The Sena, which is part of the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government and the NDA dispensation at the Centre, has been often at loggerheads with the BJP on several issues.
Former MRCC head Gurudas Kamat also condemned the incident and visited the damaged office.