It is not the first time that Raj Thackeray and Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi, who was assaulted by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) members in the Maharashtra Assembly, have crossed swords.

The rivalry between the two leaders began last year, when Mr. Raj Thackeray launched an anti-North Indian campaign, demanding rights for sons-of-the-soil.

The campaign took a violent turn when MNS men thrashed North Indians, forcing several of them to leave the State.

Mr. Raj Thackeray even opposed celebrating Chhat pooja and North India Day in Maharashtra and said “only Maharashtra Day must be celebrated in Maharashtra.”

Reacting to this Mr. Azmi got into a war of words with Mr. Raj Thackeray and said he would distribute batons to the people to protect them from MNS men.

Mr. Raj Thackeray retaliated, saying he would distribute swords to Marathi people to take on the batons.

Both the leaders were arrested in February 2008 under various sections of IPC.

Before the Assembly session began on Monday, a political debate was started as Mr. Azmi demanded the House agenda in Hindi.

“Hindi is our national language and it should come after Marathi. However, the House agenda and other papers were in Marathi and English. So, I wrote to the Assembly secretary demanding the agenda in Hindi,” Mr. Azmi, who was elected from Mankhurd in central Mumbai and Bhiwandi in Thane district had said.

Furious over Mr. Azmi’s demand, Mr. Raj Thackeray, known for his anti-North Indian campaign, said “If Azmi wants the House agenda in Hindi, then he should go to Uttar Pradesh.”

Thirteen candidates of the MNS have been elected to the Assembly while 11 of the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF), which also includes SP, were elected in the State Assembly polls.

Four MNS candidates were suspended for assaulting Mr. Azmi on the first day of the session, after he began taking oath in Hindi.