The Bombay High Court’s direction Tuesday to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to demolish unauthorised portions of Union Minister and BJP leader Narayan Rane’s eight-storey bungalow in Juhu is seen as another setback for Rane and a new chapter in the bitter feud that he has been involved in with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena for 17 years.
Having started out in the Sena when just in his 20s, from the local Shakha at Chembur, the 72-year-old spent most of his rising years in the party. In February 1999, he hit his peak when Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray picked him as the new Chief Minister after Manohar Joshi was asked to step down. But he had to step down in nine months, after the Sena-BJP was voted out of power in the 1999 Assembly elections.
Soon after, Rane had found his ambitions snipped as Balasaheb chose Uddhav as his political successor, and the latter tightened his grip on the party. In 2003, when the Sena, at a convention in Mahabaleshwar, named Uddhav as party’s “executive president”, Rane was one of the very few Sena leaders to oppose the move.
As a result, in 2005, Rane was expelled from the Sena by Balasaheb for “anti-party activities”, on the allegation that he sold party posts and election tickets.
Rane subsequently joined the Congress, taking along a dozen Sena MLAs. He was made the Revenue Minister in the Vilasrao Deshmukh led Congress-NCP government that was voted back to power in the 2004 Assembly elections.
But, within three years of joining the Congress, Rane again revolted, after the high command ordered a change of guard and appointed Ashok Chavan as the CM in December 2008. A miffed Rane claimed he was betrayed and accused Congress leaders. including Sonia Gandhi, of having gone back on their word to make him the CM. But a month down the line Rane apologised to the party and was reinducted into the state Cabinet in February 2009 as Industries Minister.
After the Congress-NCP was voted back to power in 2009, Rane first served as Revenue and then Industries Minster for the entire tenure of the government.
In the 2014 Assembly elections Rane failed to retain his constituency Kudal, losing to the Sena. Eighteen months later, he opted for a by-election from Bandra East, the constituency in which Uddhav resides, but lost again.
The successive electoral defeats forced Rane to review his political trajectory and he decided to part ways with the Congress in a bid to cosy up with the BJP. In 2017, he quit the Congress saying the party had no future and formed his own party, the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh. By 2018, Rane was in the BJP camp, and after declaring support to it, got elected to the Rajya Sabha. In October 2019, in the run-up to the Maharashtra Assembly elections that the BJP-Sena would win, Rane merged his party with the BJP.
In the past few years, as the BJP’s ties with the Sena broke and then deteriorated, the BJP has tapped into Rane’s deep antipathy towards Uddhav and used him to target the Sena chief.
In August 2021, soon after his induction into the Union Cabinet, Rane declared that he would slap Uddhav for “forgetting the year of Independence”. Rane’s statement led to protests by the Sena, which filed at least three cases against him. Subsequently, Rane was briefly arrested for his remarks.
Rane was also at the forefront during the drama following deaths of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and his manager Disha Salian apparently of suicide. The BJP leader alleged links connecting the deaths with the Thackeray family.
Not long after, the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC issued notice to Rane over “illegal construction” at his Juhu bungalow – in what was seen as the party getting back at its bete noire.
There was no movement in the matter after that. The action now follows Mumbai-based RTI activist Santosh Daundkar, who has been campaigning on the issue, complaining that no action had been taken in five years. Following this, the BMC had issued a notice to Rane for inspection of the bungalow, which was challenged in court by Rane and his family. The matter then went to the High Court, which Tuesday ordered the demolition of the illegal structures.