On Maharashtra Day, high-voltage action is expected in the state with Raj Thackeray holding a mega rally in Aurangabad on Sunday (May 1). The public meeting holds significance as it comes months after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief stoked a major controversy by giving an ultimatum to the Uddhav Thackeray government that his workers will play the Hanuman Chalisa near mosques to drown the azaan, till the authorities act upon loudspeakers at mosques. The statement drew various political reactions from all quarters, with the recent Amravati MP-MLA couple being arrested after face-off with the Shiv Sena over the issue.
Raj Thackeray’s rally is scheduled to take place at Marathwada Sanskrutik Mandal in the district. It is the same venue where his uncle and Shiv Sena founder, the late Bal Thackeray, held a rally over three decades ago. According to a report in Indian Express, Thackeray Senior too had used the Aurangabad stage in 1988 to play his hardline Hindutva card. The Sena leader had exhorted people to choose between Khan (the catch-all polarising term to represent Muslims) and Baan (the Sena’s poll symbol of bow and arrow).
According to officials, the Aurangabad police had set a total of 16 terms and conditions while giving permission to the MNS chief to hold the rally. Raj Thackeray has been asked to avoid using offensive slogans, religious, casteist and regional references during or after the meeting. The rally, which is scheduled to be held between 4:30 pm and 9:45 pm, is expected to see around 15,000 people.
Before the rally, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s MP, Imtiyaz Jaleel, floated the idea of inviting the 53-year-old leader MNS leader for a Ramadan feast – Iftar. “Raj Thackeray is coming here for a rally . I invite him for Iftar. We’ll sit together… it will send a good message to the country… 99 per cent of people are peace-loving, only one per cent of people create disturbance,” Jaleel, a lawmaker from Aurangabad, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
“I believe that the police is capable of controlling this 1 per cent of people who create disturbance… no matter what party or community they belong to,” he added.