Union Minister and BJP Rajya Sabha member Narayan Rane was arrested Tuesday by Maharashtra Police for threatening to “slap” Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. He was released on bail in Mahad in Raigad, nearly nine hours after his arrest, but district officials said there were four other FIRs against him in the state.
The BJP rallied behind Rane, claiming that while it did not agree with his remarks, his arrest was in violation of constitutional procedures.
Speaking to reporters Monday evening in Mahad in Raigad, Rane had said: “It is shameful that the Chief Minister does not know the year of Independence. He leaned back to enquire about the count of years of independence during his speech. Had I been there, I would have given (him) a tight slap.”
Rane’s remarks led to a spate of protests across Maharashtra. In Mumbai, the Yuva Sena, the Sena’s youth wing led by Aaditya Thackeray, was at the forefront of protests. Amey Ghole, Shiv Sena corporator and Yuva Sena treasurer, put up banners in Dadar area with Rane’s photograph titled “Kombdi Chor” (a derogatory reference to the poultry business he ran years ago) and there was stone-pelting outside Rane’s house in the Juhu area. Shiv Sainiks also held protests in Dahisar, Malad (East) and other places.
At least five FIRs were filed by Shiv Sainiks in Mahad, Pune city, Jalgaon, Thane city and Nashik city against Rane over his remarks.
The FIR by Mahad city’s Yuva Sena party leader Siddhesh Patekar against Rane was registered under IPC sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 159 (commit an affray), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace), 505 (public mischief) and 506 (criminal intimidation). FIRs with similar sections were registered at other police stations as well.
Rane is presently touring parts of Konkan as part of the BJP’s public outreach campaign launched as the Jan Ashirwad Yatra.
On Tuesday morning, Rane told reporters he had no regrets about what he had said. “I have not committed any crime. I have no regrets,” he said.
He moved the sessions court in Ratnagiri, seeking pre-arrest bail which was denied. He also approached the Bombay High Court, seeking quashing of multiple FIRs registered over his remarks, but was not granted any urgent hearing.
He was arrested in Sangameshwar while he was having lunch with party workers.
On Tuesday night, BJP MLC Prasad Lad, who was with Rane from the time of his arrest, said the Union Minister had been granted bail.
Rane was produced before the Judicial Magistrate First Class at Mahad where police sought his custody for seven days. But Rane’s lawyers said he was suffering from diabetes and hypertension and there was no need for his custody.
Rane’s wife Neelam had also reached Mahad Tuesday evening. She was accompanied by relatives.
Mahad sub-divisional officer Pratima Pudalwad said Shiv Sainiks and BJP workers had gathered in large numbers outside the police station and court and the district machinery had a tough time managing them.
District officials said there was another police team waiting to take Rane’s custody since four other FIRs had been filed against him.
Rane has to appear before Raigad Police on August 30 and September 13. State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said with Rane being granted bail, the party will continue with its Jan Ashirwad Yatra.
Earlier, Prasad Lad said: “We condemn the way in which Maharashtra Police and Ratnagiri SP behaved with him. He was having his food when he was manhandled and arrested… We have not been told under which section he has been arrested. We fear for his life.”
BJP president J P Nadda described Rane’s arrest as a violation of constitutional values.
“The arrest of Union Minister Narayan Raneji by the Maharashtra government is a violation of constitutional values. We will neither be scared nor suppressed by such action,” Nadda said. “These people are troubled by the immense support the BJP is getting in the Jan Ashirwad Yatra. We will continue to fight democratically,” he said.
BJP leader and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “We don’t support Rane’s remark against the CM. But let me make it clear that the entire BJP is with Rane. At the most, such an uncharacteristic remark could have been countered by the ruling coalition through statements. Where was the need to lodge an FIR and issue an arrest order?… Will Maharashtra not be governed by law? Is this the Taliban?”.
The Sena said Rane had hurt the dignity of the constitutional post of the Chief Minister.
“The CM of any state is not just an individual but an institution and it has constitutional status. The Opposition can criticise the government. But there are people like Narayan Rane, in Narendra Modi’s cabinet … made a statement that he will slap the CM, and used threatening language. Is this the BJP culture?” Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said.