Heavy rain coupled with thunder and lightning on Wednesday played a dampner to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s first public meeting in Pune to kick-off the party’s poll campaign. The rain, which began around 6 p.m. and lasted about an half-hour, was enough to cause the first MNS rally to be cancelled, much to the despair of party workers who were seeing taking refuge from the downpour by clutching chairs over their heads.According to an MNS leader, some 200-odd MNS workers had reached the grounds of the Saraswati Vidya Mandir.“However, the strong gale which preceded the showers all but ruined the arrangements, while the rain left behind rows of sticky mud on the grounds,” he said.All eyes were on Mr. Thackeray’s eagerly anticipated address as the MNS chief had lately gone silent following his nine-hour interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in August.Mr. Thackeray’s address was also expected to give a boost to the chances of Kishore Shinde, the party candidate in the high-stakes Kothrud Assembly segment.Mr. Shinde, who has the covert support of other opposition parties including the NCP, is pitted against BJP State unit president Chandrakant Patil.The MNS was hunting for a venue for Mr. Thackeray’s public meetings since the beginning of this month.The party’s Pune unit chief Ajay Shinde, himself a candidate from Kasba Peth, had even accused the State government of deliberately trying to prevent Mr. Thackeray’s rallies as they were a huge draw in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections. Mr. Thackeray is scheduled to hold two public meetings in Mumbai tomorrow.