''Turf war with Uddhav over Marathi votes led to Raj's diatribe''

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Mumbai, Feb 11 (UNI) MNS chief Raj Thackeray's diatribe against North Indians, which sparked regional violence, was the result of a turf war between him and cousin and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray over Marathi votes in the electorally crucial Mumbai-Thane belt, political observers said.

The battle between the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena among other parties is to gain control of the Mumbai-Thane belt since the region will elect nearly 60 MLAs after the constituencies' re-organisation.

Barring Manohar Joshi and Babasaheb Bhosale, all other Maharashtra chief ministers have been from districts other than Mumbai.

However, with the re-organisation of the constituencies, the next chief minister could well be decided by the Mumbai-Thane region, the observers said while pointing out the political importance of nursing the belt.

The observers recalled that the Shiv Sena under Bal Thackeray had raised a similar bogey against the south Indians while demanding jobs for Maharashtrians in all sectors.

The Sena had gone all out against the south Indians with the slogan ''Hatao loongi, bajao poongi''.

The agitation against the South Indians at that time was quite vigorous and similar attempts to damage the eating outlets, owned by south Indians, were made, the observers pointed out.

''Outsiders'' are flocking to Mumbai and slowly the ''bhel puri'' and autorickshaw businesses, which were once the domain of the Maharashtrians, slipped away from them.

Raj Thackeray raised the issue at a local fishermen's meet and his statements were immediately countered by Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh. Uddhav has joined the band-wagon by demanding that the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) should employ Maharashtrians.

UNI JM MAZ RR PM1810

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