Marathi card: NCP aims to pay back MNS in its own coin

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Mumbai, March 2: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who has set out on a mission to increase his party's tally in the next assembly elections due in 2014, will play the Marathi card in pockets that connect with the sons-of-the-soil sentiment to check the growth of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) led by Raj Thackeray.

The NCP has also asked its Mumbai chief and MP Sanjay Dina Patil to take more initiative in this regard. Senior ministers Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayanta Patil and Sachin Ahir were also being consulted to work on strategies to check the MNS and Shiv Sena, known for their aggressive political style.

The NCP and MNS have been at the loggerheads in the state politics of late with both leaders and supporters of the two sides trading charges and blows on the streets, respectively.

Mumbai and Thane contribute 60 seats together to the 288-member strong state assembly. The NCP, which is in the ruling alliance with the Congress in the state, currently has 60-odd assembly seats and is aiming to increase its tally to 85-90.

Pawar on Friday asked his party workers to maintain clam and not get provoked by the MNS 's tactics of spreading violence. The message was sent across after the NCP chief and Union minister Sharad Pwar asked the state unit to ensure that law and order was not disrupted because of the clash with MNS workers. The junior Pawar said instead on engaging with the MNS in street fights, the party would prepare for a political battle to teach the former a lesson.

However, not all are convinced. A senior party leader said while the senior leaders were asking for restraint, the young members were getting impatient and wanted to toe a hard line. Party sources also said that it was not prudent to fight multiple opponents. They said the MNS-NCP fight would benefit the Congress and leave little space for the Pawars in places like Mumbai, Nashik, Pune and Thane.

They added that the Congress had won six Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai in the 2009 Lok Sabh apolls with tacit backing of the Rah Thackeray's outfit. They said the MNS chief was targetting the NCP to make gains in western Maharashtra. The NCP leaders were worried for they said increase in violence would put them at a greater disadvantage for the state home minister, RR Patil, belongs to their party.

Four MNS members arrested

Four MNS members were arrested on Thursday for allegedly attacking the NCP office here. The office was targetted following stone-pelting at the convoy of Thackeray ay Bhingar in Ahmednagar district by suspected NCP supporters. The four arrested, Ashish Sable, Abhishek Thite, Sachin Katkar and Ranjit Dhage, were taken to court and remanded in two-day police custody.

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