Updated: August 31, 2021 11:16:00 am
Union Minister Narayan Rane’s statement in Raigad that he would have slapped Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for “not knowing the year of India’s independence” has led to widespread protests by the Shiv Sena and three FIRs against Rane, a former Sainik himself. Meanwhile, Rane was granted bail by a magistrate court in Mahad late Tuesday evening.
A look at the origins of the acrimony between Uddhav Thackeray and Narayan Rane, and why the latter is the lynchpin of the BJP’s strategy to target the Maharashtra Chief Minister.
Why is there bad blood between Narayan Rane and Shiv Sena?
Narayan Rane, 69, began his political career as a “shakha pramukh” in Shiv Sena and rose through the ranks to become Maharashtra Chief Minister in the first Shiv Sena-BJP government for eight months in 1999, replacing Sena’s Manohar Joshi as CM.
In 2003, when the Sena in a convention in Mahabaleshwar named Uddhav Thackeray as party’s “executive president”, Rane had opposed the move and went on to challenge Uddhav’s leadership.
As a result, in 2005, Rane was expelled from the party by the then Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray for “anti-party activities” after Rane alleged the posts and tickets in the elections were sold in the party.
Soon after, Rane joined the Congress with dozens of MLAs. However, his attempt to split the Sena by taking around 40 legislators with him was foiled by the Sena. In 2017, Rane, who claimed that he was promised the CM’s post, quit the Congress stating that there is no scope in the party and formed his own outfit, the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh. Later on, he declared support to BJP and got elected to Rajya Sabha and merged his party in BJP in 2019.
Rane has been known for making acerbic attacks on the Sena, especially on the Thackeray family. While Rane did not criticise Sena patriarch Balasaheb Thackeray, he never minced words in attacking Uddhav Thackeray. Over the years, he has even taken digs at Uddhav’s wife Rashmi, and son Aaditya.
What has triggered the recent round of hostilities between Narayan Rane and the Shiv Sena?
During his speech on Monday evening in Mahad city in Raigad, Narayan Rane 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.”
The statement was seen as a personal attack against Thackeray with the Sena leadership hitting back at Rane by way of registration of FIRs and holding street protests against him.
At least three FIRs, in Raigad, Pune, and Nashik districts, have been registered against Rane Monday.
Recently, during his visit to the flood-affected Konkan region, Rane had blamed Uddhav Thackeray’s “bad luck” for the disasters in the state.
Why is Rane touring Maharashtra at this point in time?
Rane is one of the four union ministers from Maharashtra who were last month inducted in the Narendra Modi government during cabinet expansion. All the four including Rane, Bharati Pawar, Bhagwat Karad and Kapil Patil have been asked to hold a Janashirwad Yatra which commenced from August 16 in various regions of the state.
With over a dozen municipal corporations, including the civic bodies of Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, set to go to polls early next year, the yatra is being deemed as an early canvassing campaign launched by the BJP.
Rane has been made the lynchpin of the BJPs attempt to dethrone the Shiv Sena from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation which it is controlling since the 70s barring a small period in the 90s.
A bitter rival of Uddhav Thackeray, Rane had thrown down the gauntlet at the Sena by starting his Janashirwad Yatra by paying a floral tribute at the Bal Thackeray memorial in Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
He said the BJP would win the Mumbai civic elections due early next year. “BJP will return to power. We will ensure the end of three decades of Shiv Sena regime in BMC,” he asserted.
How effective is Narayan Rane in challenging the Shiv Sena?
Narayan Rane’s attacks on the Shiv Sena and Thackeray family has both advantages and disadvantages for the BJP. Sources said it would help the BJP counter the Sena in BMC polls early next year in the pockets having a sizeable population from the Konkan region.
However, Sena leaders said Rane’s abusive language against the Chief Minister will not bode well for the BJP. “The people of the state have seen how Uddhav Thackeray handles the crisis including Covid and disasters with patience and without creating any noise like BJP leaders. The people in the state consider Uddhav Thackeray as their family member,” said the leader.
The leader pointed out that apart from making controversial statements, Rane will have no impact on the ground in the BMC polls. “In 2015, Rane contested the by-poll from the Bandra (East) assembly seat and was defeated by the Sena. We have shown him his place,” said the Sena leader.
Another leader said the Sena and its cadre are known for holding protests but it has not held any protests after the party came to power in the state. “The recent incidents have given space for the party cadre to express their sentiments through the protest against the BJP. The sainiks are always ahead when it comes to street fighting in politics,” said the leader.
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