For the third day in a row, Samajwadi Party (SP) legislator Abu Asim Azmi was targeted, this time by the Shiv Sena. Incensed at his remarks against their leader Bal Thackeray, Sena members disrupted and stalled proceedings in the Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday, demanding the arrest and suspension of Mr. Azmi. The House was adjourned thrice for a total of 45 minutes.

Reacting to an editorial against him in the Sena mouthpiece Saamna, Mr. Azmi said in the Vidhan Bhavan precincts on Tuesday: “Thackeray has gotten old and speaks like a child.” Angered by his remark, Sena supporters gheraoed him, while some attacked his shop at Colaba.

On Wednesday, Mr. Azmi was not present in the House. However, as the session began, Sena leaders charged into the well and raised slogans: “Down with Abu Azmi the traitor, suspend Abu Azmi.” They stuck banners on the podium and the desk on the dais.

“A publicity stunt”

Calling the SP member’s remark a publicity stunt, Leader of the Opposition Eknath Khadse said: “Mr. Azmi has uttered inappropriate words against Mr. Thackeray. He has hurt the sentiments of those who love Mr. Thackeray. The consequences of this can be unpredictable.”

Mr. Khadse drew attention to the atmosphere of unrest in the State since the attack by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena on the first day of the session. “When one thought the matter has been quelled, Mr. Azmi has fuelled [fresh] disturbance.”

Demanding stringent action in both cases — for the MNS attack and for Mr. Azmi’s remark — Mr. Khadse said those who tried to spread bitterness among communities should be taken to task.

Sena group leader Subhash Desai said Mr. Azmi had misused the space given to the media on the Vidhan Bhavan premises. “We won’t be quiet until we prove our mettle with the bow and arrow [Sena’s symbol] to Azamgarh’s mullah [a reference to Mr. Azmi].”

Demanding stringent action against Mr. Azmi, MNS Legislature Party leader Bala Nandgaonkar said: “Mr. Bal Thackeray is a revered figure to many. Is Mr. Azmi never going to be old? Was his father never old?”

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan condemned both the incidents that occurred on the first day and Mr. Azmi’s remark.

Assuring the members that action would be taken, he expressed the hope that none of the legislators would cause provocation and hurt.