Edited by Mala Das | Updated: August 21, 2012 19:48 IST
Mr Thackeray, in white and wearing sunglasses, emerged from his vanity van and addressed supporters from a big stage draped in the MNS' purple, orange and green erected at the Azad Maidan. The MNS had said it expected over a lakh people to gather for the rally. The number of people that gathered at the Azad Maidan was in the thousands, but it was a big crowd.
The Kodak moment on stage came after Mr Thackeray had soundly criticised the police - a cop in uniform came up to present him with a yellow rose. The Mumbai Police constable later told reporters that he was at the rally because he was disappointed as he had sought a transfer, but the Police Commissioner had rejected it.
Before moving to Azad Maidan, Mr Thackeray arrived at Girgaum Chowpatty in his blue SUV; he was to have led a march from there to the Azad Maidan. But as he arrived, thousands of MNS supporters that had gathered on the beach, poured out to the middle of the arterial Marine Drive, holding party flags, raising slogans and creating a traffic nightmare. Cars could not move for about 40 minutes - the crowds dispersed only when Mr Thackeray got back into his car and chose to drive to Azad Maidan, five kilometres away.
The MNS only had permission to hold a protest meeting at the Azad Maidan, not a rally, the police said. But Raj Thackeray defied that and declared that his party would march too.
The police had served the MNS chief with a notice under section 149 of the CrPC not to make an inflammatory speech.
The police have made elaborate arrangements to prevent violence; 15,000 policemen have been deployed across the city.
Cops have been posted on all major roads leading to south Mumbai and are also on alert at major railway stations.
Roads to many important buildings and offices including the Bombay Stock Exchange are likely to be blocked.
Earlier this month, a large demonstration at Azad Maidan spiralled into a riot in which two people died and more than 40 were injured. An armed mob attacked policemen and women; several vehicles were set on fire. The demonstration had been called to protest against the ethnic violence in Assam in which nearly 80 people have died.
For Raj Thackeray, this is a political rally and reaffirmation of strength. Assembly elections in Maharashtra are less than two years away and a recent thawing of relations with uncle Bal Thackeray and cousin Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena has given rise to much speculation about a political coming together of the Thackerays.
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