Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Monday said the move by Raj Thackeray to protest against the Azad Maidan violence was an attempt by him to stake claim to the Hindutva agenda of the Shiv Sena and score over the party in a way.

Talking to journalists, Mr. Chavan said Mr. Raj was also trying to get the sympathy of the police by taking up the cause of the families of the injured policemen and also the media fraternity. Till now the Maharashtra Navnirnan Sena had been focusing on the anti-north Indian vote but now it was veering towards a more hardline stance, specially going by the posters the MNS has put up.

A source from the Congress said a number of MLAs were elected due to Muslim support in the MNS, and the MNS was not a party known to be anti-Muslim. However, the Shiv Sena, which paid homage at the memorial of amar jawan on Monday, has only threatened to call a protest march. The MNS hopes to cash in on the Sena’s weakened position and show that it was made of sterner stuff, the source said.

Police fully prepared

Emphasising that the Mumbai police have given the MNS permission only for a “peaceful meeting” to be held at Azad Maidan on Tuesday, Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Rajnish Seth said on Monday that the police were fully prepared to handle the situation.

Mr. Thackeray estimated that around 50,000 people would turn up for the rally from Girgaum Chaupaty to Azad Maidan to protest against the recent violence by some Muslim youths during an anti-Assam violence protest here.

Mr. Seth even refused to share the route of the rally with the media or give any information about whether permission was given for the protest.

The police acknowledged that there would be traffic problems in South Mumbai and that traffic would have to be diverted, but they refused to give information about the route through which the vehicles would be diverted. “We will let people know on Tuesday through FM radio and SMSs,” Vivek Phansalkar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic), said at the press conference.

Mr. Seth refused to give any commitments about the way the police would handle the situation if it started getting out of their hands. “We have adequate police deployment. We will handle the situation according to what happens tomorrow.”