Narayan Rane arrested in Maharashtra

He moves HC to quash FIRs; He had allegedly said he would have slapped Uddhav Thackeray for ‘forgetting the number of years of India’s Independence during flag-hoisting on August 15’

Narayan Rane, Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, was on Tuesday arrested and taken into custody from Sangameshwar by the Ratnagiri police.

The Bombay High Court refused to grant relief and told him to follow the due procedures before approaching it. He had moved the court seeking to quash the four FIRs against him for saying he would have slapped Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for ‘forgetting the number of years of India’s Independence during flag-hoisting on August 15’.

Anticipatory bail plea rejected

Earlier in the day, a court in Ratnagiri district in the Konkan region rejected his anticipatory bail plea.

The FIRs were registered against the former Chief Minister in Pune by the Yuva Sena (the Shiv Sena’s youth wing), one in Nashik and two at Mahad in Raigad district.

Mr. Rane moved the High Court through advocate Aniket Nikam, challenging the FIRs registered in Mahad (Raigad), Pune, and Nashik. He has also sought protection from coercive action, including arrest pending hearing of the plea.

High drama was seen in Ratnagiri when the Sangameshwar police went to arrest him, triggering heated altercations between his aides and the authorities.

Sena-BJP men clash

A face-off between BJP and Shiv Sena Party workers during a protest after Shiv Sena Party workers pelted stones at the BJP office reacting against the statement by Union Minister Narayan Rane, in Thane, on Aug. 24, 2021. | Photo Credit: PTI

 

Shiv Sena and BJP workers clashed on the streets in Mumbai after Mr. Rane’s comment. Sena supporters protested in Solapur, where they blackened Mr. Rane’s photo, garlanded it with chappals and hit his picture with footwear. Shiv Sainiks also vandalised the BJP’s office in Nashik and agitations are believed to have broken out in Baramati, Nagpur and Sangli.

Mr. Rane, a vitriolic critic of the Sena and Mr. Thackeray, made the remarks during his ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’, which he launched last week against the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

High drama was seen in Ratnagiri when the Sangameshwar police went to arrest him, triggering heated altercations between the Minister’s aides and the authorities.

“What crime has Mr. Rane committed. This is a lawless State…we told the Superintendent of Police that we are ready to come down to the jail if the police had a proper warrant. But the police claim they are under tremendous pressure. Is this rule by law or goonda raj,” asked Pramod Jathar, BJP leader from the Konkan.

Mr. Rane had said, “The State’s economy and all businesses are in turmoil owing to this man [Mr. Thackeray] pathetic management of affairs…more than 1.5 lakh persons have lost their lives due to the State’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a shortage of vaccines, no medical staff, no doctors. The State’s health infrastructure was in a shambolic state… Does he [Mr. Thackeray] even have the right to speak on anything… He ought to keep a secretary as he did not even know it was the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence and was asking someone backstage [on Independence Day]. I would have given him a tight slap had I been there for forgetting the number of years of India’s Independence”.

‘Against protocol’

While BJP Leader of the Opposition and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis admitted that Mr. Rane ought to have shown restraint in his statements, State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said it was “against protocol” for a State government to arrest a Union Minister.

“All this arrest drama has been contrived by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to divert the public’s attention from the fact that Mr. Rane has been receiving overwhelming support in the Konkan region during his ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’,” Mr. Patil claimed.

Mr. Rane’s flamboyant style of speech was no secret. Even in the past, he had allegedly called Mr. Thackeray a chor (thief) when the latter was not the Chief Minister, Mr. Patil stated.

“I wonder who is advising the Chief Minister to do all this… As far as maintaining the decorum of the post is concerned, we [the BJP], too, have a long list of how those holding government and legislative posts have misused and abused power to support their respective parties… It is not a question of justifying Mr. Rane’s remark. But then ‘derogatory’ remarks made by leaders from the three ruling coalition parties have gone unnoticed without inviting any action…this is not fair,” Mr. Patil added.

The induction of Mr. Rane in the Union Cabinet last month during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mega-reshuffle is being viewed as an aggressive move on the BJP’s part to neutralise the Sena in the Konkan.

‘Sena baiting’

Himself a former Shiv Sainik and an important face of the Maratha community, Mr. Rane’s ‘Sena baiting’ has grown even more strident since he exited the Congress in 2017.

However, his entry into the BJP had not been smooth and was a bone of contention when the BJP and the Sena were in alliance in the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis government.

The Konkan strongman had accused the Sena of deliberately delaying his entry, given the mutual antipathy between himself and Mr. Thackeray.

In September 2017, Mr. Rane severed his decade plus-long association with the Congress with the expectation that the BJP, which is weak in the Konkan belt, would welcome him with open arms. At the time of his exit, he had vowed to deplete the ranks of his former parties, the Sena and the Congress.

In the interim up until the present moment, he has repeatedly launched vitriolic attacks on Mr. Thackeray, berating the latter’s capabilities as party head and then as Chief Minister.

Mr. Rane, who ruled his fiefdom of Kudal in Sindhudurg district which he held for six terms as MLA, had been comprehensively trounced by the Sena’s Vaibhav Naik in the 2014 Assembly elections – a defeat he has neither forgotten nor forgiven.

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