Rajat Sharma

The politics behind Uddhav Thackeray ordering the arrest of Narayan Rane

aaj ki baatIn a rare case of its kind, a Union Minister, Narayan Rane, was arrested by Maharashtra police on Tuesday for making an offending remark against the state chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. This is unprecedented in Mahrashtra politics. After staying in police custody for eight hours, by late midnight, a local magistrate in Mahad, released Rane on bail but ordered him to appear before the police and refrain from repeating such remarks in future. The magistrate rejected the police application seeking seven day custody of the Union Minister.

Rane was made Union Minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet last month. He had been on ‘Jan Ashirvad Yatra’ in Konkan region to thank the voters. In one of his speeches, Rane mentioned how Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray asked his secretary whether it was the Amrit Mahotsav (75th year) of India’s independence or Diamond Jubilee. Rane said, he would have slapped Uddhav Thackeray below his ears for not knowing how many years India has been independent.

When media splashed Rane’s offending remark, Shiv Sena workers came out to stage state wide protests against Rane. Four FIRs were filed by Shiv Sena workers in different parts of Maharashtra. Rane, a former Shiv Sainik and an experienced politician, told India TV while being arrested that he does not rank Uddhav Thackeray in the same league as himself as a politician. Rane had filed anticipatory bail application before his arrest, but soon after it was rejected, police came to his hotel immediately to arrest him.

Rane was arrested from a hotel in Sangameshwar near Ratnagiri, after hundreds of his supporters tried to stop police. There was high drama inside the hotel as police entered a room where Rane was having his lunch. Soon, Rane’s supporters had a verbal spat with the local SP, and Rane asked the police officer to allow him to finish his lunch. Rane was then arrested and whisked away to Raigad.

After he was released on bail on Tuesday night, Rane returned to his residence in Mumbai. The state BJP leaders described the arrest as “violation of Constitutional values”. There were clashes on Tuesday between Rane’s supporters and Shiv Sainiks outside the minister’s residence in Mumbai. Police had to resort to cane charge to disperse the crowd.

In Nashik, Shiv Sainiks protested outside the local BJP office and pelted stones. In Sangli, Rane’s poster was blackened by Shiv Sena supporters. In Amrawati, BJP posters outside the office was set on fire. In Aurangabad, Rane’s effigy was burnt by Shiv Sainiks. Posters with “Kombdi Chor” (chicken thief) written on them appeared in Mumbai with Rane’s picture. These posters were later removed by police.

The feud between Rane’s and Uddhav Thackeray’s families is not new. Narayan Rane’s son Nitesh Rane frequently used the word ‘penguin’ on social media for Uddhav’s son Aditya Thackeray. Narayan Rane began his political journey from Shiv Sena. He was one of the trusted aides of Shiv Sena founder Late Balasaheb Thackeray, who even made him the state chief minister.

Bal Thackeray liked Narayan Rane for his unflinching and forthright remarks against political opponents. It was because of Rane’s qualities that Thackeray gave him the No. 2 position in Shiv Sena. Rane has studied only till Class Eleven. The relations soured when it became apparent that Uddhav Thackeray would become the successor and Rane decided to quit the party. He joined the Congress, but later left and joined BJP. Prime Minister Modi gave him a Rajya Sabha seat and last month, Rane was made a minister at the Centre. Uddhav Thackeray feels that Rane may give him a strong challenge in the next Maharashtra assembly elections.

Naryan Rane rose in politics from Mumbai’s Chembur locality. He was a local ‘dada’ and had several FIRs against him. Bal Thackeray made him the ‘shakha pramukh’ in Shiv Sena. In 1985, Rane was elected as a councillor and later he was elected MLA from 1990 to 2014. Thackeray loved Rane’s style of working and his nonchalant attitude. He used to tease him with the phrase “kombdi chor” (chicken thief), which the Shiv Sena is today using as a taunt.

Rane’s arrest has energized the state BJP with party chief J. P. Nadda and former CM Devendra Fadnavis condemning the arrest as an attack on Constitutional propriety.

I agree that phrases like “slapping”, “beating with a stick”, “throwing chappals” are undignified and should be avoided in politics. Narayan Rane could have avoided making such an offending remark. Rane has promised the local magistrate in writing that he would not repeat such a remark in future. I believe, using such derogatory remarks against a minister, a chief minister or even the Prime Minister, is not only unparliamentary but beneath civil dignity. If Rane had withdrawn his remark before his arrest, his stature in politics could have risen.

Rane should learn from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was showered with epithets like ‘naali ka keeda’, ‘maut ka saudagar’, ‘taanashah’, ‘Hitlet’ and what not. But Modi never lost his cool and never reacted by making offending remarks. Modi never replied to abuses with abusive words. These are qualities that make one a statesman. What Narayan Rane said about the chief minister was undignified, but was it such a big issue that the state police was directed to nab a Union Minister for a mere remark?

Uddhav Thackeray might have thought that being a chief minister and the supreme leader of Shiv Sena, anybody making such an offending remark must not go unpunished. It all boils down to a question of oneupmanship between a chief minister and a Union minister. Both are trying to stamp their seal of supremacy on Maharashtra politics.

The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) elections are round the corner, and BJP will try its best to unseat the Shiv Sena. Narayan Rane, who rose from a lower class neighbourhood of Chembur in Mumbai knows the streets and localities of the metropolis like the back of his hand. He is going to spearhead BJP’s challenge against the Shiv Sena.

Rane knows the local Shiv Sena leaders of Mumbai and their weaknesses. On the other hand, Uddhav Thackeray, by arresting Rane, wants to send a message that he would not spare anyone. He wants to lower the morale of Rane’s supporters. That is why, he caught hold of a sentence uttered by Rane, sent in his Shiv Sainiks and the police to show Rane his place. Otherwise, this was not such a big issue that merited a high octane drama.

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