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Toll rampage

Mumbai, Jan. 27: Alleged activists of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have vandalised toll plazas across the state since a speech by him last night, prompting over 70 arrests as the party vied with rivals in tapping discontent over the road levies.

An MNS legislator, Pravin Darekar, was among those held after an attack on a plaza near Mumbai’s Dahisar. Home minister R.R. Patil ordered a scan of the footage of Raj’s speech last night. “If it is found to be provocative, we will take strong action,” Patil, who is from the NCP, said.

At the MNS event, Raj was quoted as saying: “Do not pay unless they tell you why it is being charged. If someone obstructs, trample on them, break, smash….”

The violence began soon after, with at least 15 plazas being vandalised — some in Nagpur, 850km away from Navi Mumbai’s Vashi where Raj spoke.

Raj had started his campaign a year ago, alleging the tolls were not transparent and that private firms close to Congress-NCP ministers had been favoured. A PIL he has filed is pending in Bombay High Court. Ironically, the system was started by the Sena-BJP government in 1995-1999 when Raj was in the Sena. He quit and formed the MNS in 2006.

A fortnight ago, alleged Sena activists had vandalised booths in Kolhapur. Anna Hazare, too, has questioned the system. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan conceded yesterday that there was “some anger” at the system,but warned that roads wouldn’t be built if the tolls were stopped.