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Fearing Raj Thackeray, Toll plazas stop its operation as he travels to Pune by road

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Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Thursday arrived in Pune by road, but did not pay toll tax in line with his tough stand on the issue.

The three toll plazas at Vashi, Urse and Talegaon en route to Pune from Mumbai stopped operations for a few minutes when Thackeray’s convoy passed through them.

According to the norms, public representatives are allowed to travel without paying toll tax. Thackeray is neither a legislator nor a parliamentarian.

Amid speculations of Thackeray’s arrest over MNS workers ransacking toll booths across Maharashtra, the police said they would wait and watch as a hasty action may pose a threat to law and order.

Senior officials of the Pune rural police added action against Thackeray, who has ordered MNS workers not to pay toll tax and attack anyone who ask for money, would be taken only after considering all the legal aspects.

The Pune rural police have booked Thackeray for inciting violence, taking the total number of cases registered against him to 133, said Rajendra Shirodkar, Thackeray’s lawyer.

The MNS chief, who is on a four-day Pune tour, will address party functionaries from across the state on Friday.

“We will review the situation and decide (about Thackeray’s arrest) after his speech,” an official said.

Earlier this week, the Maharashtra Police had arrested several MNS workers, including party legislator Pravin Darekar, for vandalising toll booths in at least eight cities.

Thackeray had asked party workers on last Sunday not to pay toll tax and demolish toll plazas if they were not allowed to pass through them.

Speculations are rife that Thackeray is likely to play the hardball on the issue since it has brought him to the centre stage of the state politics after almost a year.

The anti-toll agitation started by the MNS comes at a time when there has been an outcry against it across Maharashtra in the run-up to the assembly polls as well as the 2014 general elections.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had assured last week the toll collection issue would be reviewed and a new policy would be announced soon.

Thackeray — who had parted ways with his uncle late Bal Thackeray’s party, the Shiv Sena, in 2006 — is no stranger to controversy.

He had formed the MNS a year later. His inflammatory speeches against north Indians residing in Maharashtra have brought him at the centre of raging controversies on several occasions.

Of the 133 cases registered against him, 112 are in Maharashtra. The others are in states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Delhi.

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