From an acting career in southern cinema, a mass wedding ceremony under the tutelage of Baba Ramdev, a controversy over a fraudulent caste certificate, Amravati MP Navneet Rana and her husband Ravi Rana have never been far from the public eye. The political duo is now in the limelight after threatening to recite the Hanuman Chalisa outside the Maharashtra chief minister's house.
The Ranas were booked under sedition in connection with the Hanuman Chalisa case and sent to judicial custody by a Mumbai court on Sunday, 24 March, after they were arrested for "creating enmity between different groups."
This, however, is not the MP-MLA couple's first brush with controversy, nor their first taste of legal trouble. Here's a look at the Ranas' political trajectories, legal cases, and past squabbles.
An Actress-Turned-MP, and a 3-Time MLA: The Ranas' Political Trajectory
A former actress who has starred in a number of Telugu films such as Jagapathi and Bhuma, Navneet Kaur Rana had started working as a model after finishing her schooling. She had made her debut as a movie actor in 2004, with the film Darshan.
Rana had forayed into politics in 2014, when she had contested the Lok Sabha elections on a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ticket. She had lost to Anandrao Adsul of the Shiv Sena.
In 2019, she emerged victorious on the Amravati Lok Sabha constituency seat by defeating Adsul. She had contested as an independent candidate with the backing of Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Her husband, Ravi Rana, is an independent politician as well. He is currently serving as a third-time MLA of the Badnera Assembly constituency in the Amravati district.
Mass Wedding, Political Brawls, Forgery & Attempt To Murder Case: The Ranas' Controversies
Navneet and Ravi Rana have courted their fair share of controversies in the past, both in their personal lives and the political arena.
The couple had tied the knot in 2011, in a mass wedding ceremony organised by Yoga guru Ramdev, in which 3,612 couple had got married in a single ceremony. As per a Times of India report from the time, the ceremony made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest mass marriage performed in history. Eminent personalities such as former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chauhan and actor Vivek Oberoi had attended the event.
In 2014, in a political brawl between Navneet Rana and her Amravati contender Anandrao Adsul, the former had alleged harassment by the Shiv Sena leader.
The actress had said that Adsul had used foul language against her and questioned her character during a TV interview. She had also alleged that the Shiv Sena leader's supporters had threatened her against filing her election nomination form. The police had registered a complaint by Rana against the Shiv Sena leader at the time.
In another political feud involving Navneet Rana in March 2021, the MP had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, claiming that Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant had threatened her after she raised a case concerning suspended Maharashtra cop Sachin Vaze in the House.
According to Rana, Sawant had said, "I'll see how you roam around in Maharashtra," and "We will put you, too, behind bars."
In June 2021, the MP’s caste status had come under the radar, with the Bombay High Court cancelling her caste certificate. A vigilance committee had found that Rana's documents were fabricated, petitioners had told the court. The Supreme Court had later stayed the high court's order; the matter is still pending.
Rana had faced the possibility of forfeiting her Lok Sabha seat due to the alleged caste certificate fraud, as Amravati is a reserved constituency.
In January this year, the Ranas had found themselves embroiled in another legal case, after Ravi Rana was booked for attempt to murder over an assault on the Amravati municipal commissioner. The matter is under investigation.
The Hanuman Chalisa Row & the Sedition Case
The Maharashtra government on Sunday, 24 April, invoked sedition charges against MP Navneet Rana and her husband, MLA Ravi Rana, for allegedly spreading hate and dislike against the government and the chief minister.
The Ranas were arrested under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 34 (criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, after they announced their plan to chant Hanuman Chalisa outside Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's residence 'Matoshree' on Saturday.
This comes amid a row in the state over the broadcast of religious messages and prayers through loudspeakers.
On Saturday morning, Shiv Sena workers had protested outside the residence of the Ranas in Mumbai and also gathered outside the CM's house to stop the couple from going ahead with their plan.
The Ranas had dropped their plan, stating that they were not under any kind of pressure or scared by the Maha Vikas Aghadi or the Shiv Sena, but were cancelling their plans in honour of the prime minister's trip to Mumbai.
On Monday, the two political leaders, who are in judicial custody, had filed a plea in the Bombay High Court for the quashing of the FIR accusing them of allegedly resisting arrest in connection with the Hanuman Chalisa case. The petition was junked by the high court.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Monday called the MP-MLA couple the 'Bunty and Babli' of Amravati, alluding to a film wherein two small-town misfits turn to a life of fraud.
The Shiv Sena has accused the Ranas of plotting a scheme with the BJP to defame the party and destabilise the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.