Express News Service
MUMBAI: At the centre of the ‘slap Thackeray’ controversy, Narayan Rane is an old Shiv Sainik who took several detours before finding a place in the BJP in 2019.Out on bail now, the Union minister would have certainly not thought that his Jan Ashirwad Yatra that began on August 16 would also include his arrest. State BJP leaders have demanded a CBI probe into the arrest. However, his animosity with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray goes back a long way. Rane has been a trenchant critic of Uddhav and has been unsparingly harsh on his family, too, often taking digs at his wife Rashmi and son Aditya. During his recent visit to the flood-affected Konkan region, Rane blamed Uddhav’s “bad luck” for disasters.
A young Rane from Konkan region started off as a Shiv Sena shakha pramukh at Chembur (Mumbai) and rose through the ranks to become Maharashtra CM in the first Shiv Sena-BJP government for eight months in 1999.Uddhav was the first to object to Rane’s name being proposed in place of Joshi. Uddhav had just started speaking out through his proxies when crucial decisions were made in the Thackeray family. At that time, Shiv Sena was divided into three groups – the Thackeray family, including Balasaheb and Uddhav Thackeray, second one led by Rane and Raj Thackeray and the third included Smita Thackeray, wife of Balasaheb’s middle son Jaidev, and Joshi.
“Balsaheb wanted to replace Joshi with someone who had grown up with Sena’s street-fighting culture. Besides, Rane had put indirect pressure on him because in 1998 Lok Sabha polls, the Shiv Sena-BJP had lost badly because of Brahamical, soft-spoken leadership of Joshi. The thinking was that if Sena wanted to bring the Maratha-OBC vote bank back again, then Rane, a Maratha by caste, should be made CM. Balasaheb succumbed to pressure and Rane was declared as the next chief minister in 1999,” said a senior Sena leader.This episode sowed the first seeds of discord between Uddhav and Rane. In 2003, the Sena named Uddhav as the party’s executive president and Rane opposed the move.
The second major face-off involving Uddhav and Rane took place in 1999 state polls. Uddhav tried to push his close supporters’ names while Rane opposed them. “The ambitions of Rane and Uddhav led to a disaster for the Sena. The Sena-BJP fell short of a majority,” says political analyst Dhaval Kulkarni.In 2005, Rane was expelled from the Sena by Balasaheb for “anti-party activities”. In 2017, claiming that Congress had backtracked on its promise to make him CM, Rane left the party to form the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh. He declared support to BJP and got elected to the Rajya Sabha and later merged his party in BJP in 2019.That the BJP has chosen Rane to lead its Jan Ashirwad Yatra shows the party is banking on him to take on Uddhav.
Aim to control BMC
With over a dozen civic bodies set to go to polls early next year, the Jan Ashirwad yatra is seen as an early campaign. The BJP has primed Rane to oust the Sena from the country’s richest civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)