Is Raj Thackeray's toll booth frenzy right or wrong?

How does someone threaten the state machinery and get away with it? If you don’t know the answer, head over to MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s house. He has a ready reckoner for all those who care.

On Tuesday, Thackeray asked people to stop paying toll unless the government explained where the money went and then promptly, the MNS workers vandalised several toll booths outside Mumbai.

The images that flashed on our television sets showed that as the police calmly stood by – waiting for the higher ups to take a decision – the MNS workers wreaked havoc at the toll booths.

In the end, Thackeray is doing this for publicity.

Thackeray has a problem with the toll collection policy of the Congress-led Maharashtra government and alleges that there was no transparency in the process.

"I am not against toll collection. But a citizen who pays the toll should know where that money is going and for what purpose it is used," he said.

But Thackeray forgot the other thing that citizens should know – we do not live in a lawless state. His actions, whether right or wrong, send the wrong message to all those watching and to all those who drove by the toll booth without paying any money.

Some drove by because they just wanted to get away from there, other did it because they were scared of the mob but there must have been at least a small percentage who thought Thackeray was right; who thought that when all else fails, you can fall back on the old adage... might is right.

Toll tax is a major source of revenue for the state. Thackeray said Maharashtra Navnirman Sena workers would stand guard at all toll booths in the state and "shall stop forceful collection of toll."

"Public is being exploited by toll charges. Government policies with regard to toll collection are not being implemented. We are going to write to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (about this)," he said.

So here’s how the MNS works. First you smash everything in sight to bits and disrupt life. Next, you promise to write to the chief minister. But shouldn’t a political party look to solve things in a peaceful manner; shouldn’t they raise such issues in the Mantralaya. This ‘goonda’ raj can’t be right and the police are as much to blame as the MNS.

By just standing and watching and then detaining around 10 activists, they have shown that they are bound by politicians. They needed to pick up the entire lot and throw them in jail. But the higher ups would have been against giving cheap publicity to Thackeray, so their hand was stayed. It really was a shame.

In the end, Thackeray is doing this for publicity – that much is clear. He does not have too many seats in the Mantralaya and such ‘acts’ are designed to show him as a man of the people; they are designed to show him as a ‘Marathi Manoos.’

Such incidents need to be rewarded in kind by the people – one wonders how the MNS would react to such incidents on their ‘turf.’ They would fight back and there would be bloodshed. Rather than doing this, the popularity of Team Anna might be a sign of where Raj Thackeray and the MNS need to be headed. Why fight when you can fast or is that too much to ask?

All Thackeray is doing is staying in the public eye and he is doing it for himself. He is an ambitious politician and the extent of his ambition is not just a few toll booths. He wants to be in power but would you really want to give power to a politician who didn’t think twice about sending his ‘party workers’ to vadanlise toll booths?

Updated Date: Jul 24, 2012 21:25 PM

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