Raj Thackeray leads MNS rally against ‘Bangladeshi and Pakistani infiltrators’ in Mumbai
The march till Mumbai’s iconic Azad Maidan is being seen as an effort on Raj Thackeray’s part to shore up support for his party after several electoral losses. It is also being seen as the MNS chief’s attempt to steer towards Hindutva.
A much-hyped rally by Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) demanding the expulsion of Bangladeshi and Pakistani infiltrators began Sunday afternoon from the Hindu Gymkhana in South Mumbai, three hours behind schedule.
It is the first rally by Thackeray after he steered the MNS towards a hardline Hindutva and changed the party flag. Thousands of party workers have come to city from outside Mumabi for the rally.
Before joining the march, Thackeray first visited Siddhivinayak temple at Prabhadevi after stepping out from his Dadar residence. He joined the party workers waiting at the Gymkhana since noon, the scheduled time of the commencement of the rally. Thousands of the MNS workers started gathering from 11 am to take part in the rally. The workers have come from areas like Kalyan, Thane and some from Pune and Nashik, about 180 km from Mumbai.
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The march will culminate in a rally at Azad Maidan, about 1.8-kms from the Gymkhana. The rally is a show of strength by the MNS which has sought the eviction of Bangladeshi and Pakistani infiltrators from India. Thackeray recently has turned to Hindutva and has adopted a saffron flag.
According to MNS spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande, the response to this march has been overwhelming. “People are fed up of these Bangladeshi and Pakistani infiltrators and want them out at any cost. We are getting good response,” said Deshpande.
The MNS has launched its high profile campaign in recent days highlighting the aim of the agitation. It called the infiltrators as enemies who needed to be thrown out of the country.
But political analysts say the agitation will hardly benefit Thackeray politically. “The BJP will no doubt lend its help for the morcha but then Thackeray’s rallies have always been successful till date,” said political analyst Hemant Desai.
However, he said the topic raised by Thackeray is not very attractive. “Pakistani and Bangladeshi infiltrators are not the burning issues concerning the state and hence there is not much enthusiasm among the people about this topic,” said Desai.
After the recent drubbing in the assembly elections and the ascendency of his cousin and bitter rival Uddhav Thackeray to power as Chief Minister, Raj Thackeray has virtually made a u-turn. Thackeray who was critical of BJP and especially of Prime Minister Modi was seen getting close to the later. He recently even praised Modi.
Mumbai Police have strengthened security for the rally from Hindu Gymkhana to Vardhaman Chowk till Azad Maidan as hundreds of policemen kept an eye on the march.
Officials have said they will use drones and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to keep an eye on the rally.
They will also press into action service officers and police constables from the region, while combat teams such as Quick Response Team, Riot Control team, Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) will be kept on stand-by.
“Parking arrangements have been made at the BEST bus depot and Parsi Gymkhana,” said Mumbai Police spokesperson Pranay Ashok.