Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his arch rival, former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane, on Friday shared the stage for the first time since the latter was expelled from the Sena in 2005 and joined the Congress. The occasion was the foundation stone-laying ceremony for quadrupling of the Mumbai-Goa Highway in Sindhudurg’s Kudal. Since Rane’s exit from the Shiv Sena, the two leaders have been bitter enemies.
While the former chief minister has constantly attacked Uddhav Thackeray over the past 12 years, the Konkan strongman was seen welcoming Thackeray and wife Rashmi during Friday’s event. In their speeches on the occasion, both leaders even made it a point to mention one another. Although before the exchange of pleasantries there was a cold moment between the two.
Thackeray avoided visiting the green room when he saw Rane seated there. Meanwhile, the buzz over Rane’s much-debated switch to the BJP intensified on Friday after he showered praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and Union Road Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari.
The Congress leader has been giving his party a tough time in the past few months. He has declared publicly that he was not very happy in the Congress. In April this year, there were news reports of a meeting between Rane and BJP national president Amit Shah in Ahmedabad, which Rane later denied, while stating that he had previously received an open offer from the BJP.
Rane created a flutter yet again on Friday. In his speech, he said Modi and Fadnavis were making efforts for all-round development and progress. “Politics should not stand in the way of development,” he said. Rane also reserved high-praise for Gadkari, labelling him as the “development man”. Rane had earlier dubbed Gadkari as his “dear friend”. Incidentally hoardings put up by Rane supporters around the venue carried no sign of the Congress party. Rane is a Congress member in the legislative council.
“There should be no party politics in development work,” declared Rane, but the message being sent out was loud and clear, especially to his seniors and colleagues in the Congress.
Gadkari, whose ministry had organised the function, was also seen responding to Rane’s overtures. He ensured that the former chief minister was seated in the front row on the dais. Meanwhile, departing from protocol, Gadkari also invited Rashmi Thackeray on the dais. Incidentally a slogan war had ensued between supporters of the Shiv Sena, the BJP, and Rane at the start of the function.