MUMBAI: Police on Friday detained several Maharashtra Congress leaders outside the Vidhan Bhavan here before their planned protest against the Centre over price rise and other issues, with the party claiming that thousands of its workers were taken into preventive custody across the city.
Following the action, the party leaders slammed the central and the state governments for trying to "suppress" the opposition's voice.
The Congress on Friday held a nationwide stir against price rise, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike on essential items and unemployment.
State Congress president Nana Patole and former ministers Balasaheb Thorat, Varsha Gaikwad, Naseem Khan, Chandrakant Handore were among some of the senior leaders who were detained outside the Vidhan Bhavan, the state legislature complex in south Mumbai, before they could proceed to the Raj Bhavan for the protest.
These leaders said they had planned to carry out a protest march to the Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the governor in south Mumbai, to protest against the Centre's policies.
As per the plan announced on Thursday, the march was to begin from Hanging Garden and culminate at the Raj Bhavan around 11 am.
A heavy deployment of police was put in place outside the Vidhan Bhavan, where the Congress leaders held a meeting.
As they came out of the building, the police personnel prevented them from proceeding towards the Raj Bhavan, located a few kilometres away.
Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat told the police that it was their right to stage an agitation over the issues concerning people, including rising inflation.
"Even in the British rule, peaceful protests were allowed. But under the 'ED' government, even this is not possible," Thorat told them in an apparent reference to Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government in the state.
Former chief minister Ashok Chavan said the Congress planned to hold a peaceful protest.
A police official told the Congress leaders that they can hold a protest at Azad Maidan.
But the party leaders refused to budge, following which the police detained them and taken to the Azad Maidan police station before being released later.
Police said that notices had been sent to several Congress leaders in Mumbai, reminding them that prohibitory orders were in place, which prevents gathering of five or more people at one place.
Talking to reporters in the afternoon, senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan alleged that the Narendra Modi government has lost control over the economy and wondered why the Shinde-Fadnavis government was scared of the Congress taking to streets to protest against issues concerning common people.
"Why are the governments led by Modi and Shinde-Fadnavis scared if we hold peaceful protests to highlight the issues concerning the common man. Our leaders and workers were detained before we could start the protest. In Mumbai alone, as many as 10,000 party workers were held ahead of the protests," he claimed.
Modi government has failed to handle the economy, due to which the cost of living has gone up, he alleged.
"How can Modi and Fadnavis suppress our right?" Chavan asked.
The former chief minister charged that the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme compromises with the national security.
"China poses a serious challenge in Ladakh and the government is silent," he said.
Nana Patole said that attempts to suppress their voice would not succeed.
"The Congress launched a nationwide protest against rising fuel prices, inflation, unemployment, rise in GST and Agnipath scheme. We just wanted to meet the governor and protest before him on these issues," he said.
Meanwhile, in Nagpur, Congress staged a protest outside the district collectorate.
Several Congress workers and leaders raised slogans against the Centre.
They were detained by the police.