Narayan Rane's Arrest: BJP's 'Poke & Provoke' Worked, Sena Takes to the Streets

The BJP knows that the Shiv Sena cannot stand Narayan Rane and that's precisely why he's been put at the forefront.

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One has hardly heard of a Union Minister getting "arrested" over a comment made against a state's chief minister. However, the well-known political rivalry between Union Minister Nitish Rane and the Shiv Sena has made it possible.

Rane on Tuesday, 24 August, was arrested for his remarks against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Once the tallest leader of the Shiv Sena, second only to Bal Thackeray, and the chief minister of Maharashtra during the Sena rule in the 90s, Rane was arrested while he was on a "Jan Aashirwad Yatra" in Maharashtra. But this visit is more than just that.

The theatrics had already begun last week after he visited late Bal Thackeray's memorial in Mumbai, which had irked the Shiv Sena so much that several party workers "purified" the memorial with gaumutra after his visit. A war of words between the Sena and the BJP followed while Rane managed to garner headlines.

Why Has the Shiv Sena Taken to the Streets?

In one of his address to the media, Rane claimed that Thackeray, after forgetting the year of India's Independence during his 15 August address, had to check the same with his aides in the middle of the speech, and if he was present there, he would have given the chief minister a "tight slap".

"It is shameful that the chief minister does not know the year of our Independence. He leaned back to enquire about the count of years of independence during his speech. Had I been there, I would have given (him) a tight slap,” he said.

His comments, of course, did not go down well with the Shiv Sainiks. Visuals of clashes between Shiv Sena and BJP workers from Mumbai's plush Juhu neighbourhood went viral on social media. Similar scenes were also witnessed in Chiplun, Nashik, and Pune from where reports of clashes and vandalism of BJP offices surfaced.

Two FIRs were registered against Rane — one in Pune and another one in Nashik.

Rane sought protection against arrest and quashing of the FIRs from the the Bombay High Court, which refused to conduct an urgent hearing. Rane was arrested by the Ratnagiri Police and taken into custody from Sangameshwar.

Rane's Bitter History With the Sena

After joining the Sena in his early 20s, Rane was with the party for 39 years and held several crucial posts. Sena appointed him as the chief minister in 1999 after Manohar Joshi stepped down. However, trouble began when Uddhav officially took over the reins of the party.

Rane blamed Uddhav for Sena's debacle in the 2004 elections and reportedly began "flexing muscles". Rane repeatedly started taking jibes at Uddhav, claiming that he lacked political understanding and charisma and alleged that posts and tickets were available in the Sena 'for a price'.

After hinting that he wanted to "resign" from the party, the Sena expelled him in July 2005 while Rane was the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly.

Rane's expulsion opened a can of worms and led to a power tussle in the Sena for the first time ever while Bal Thackeray was alive. Rane threatened that not just majority of the MLAs, but also the BMC councillors were rallying behind him. The party members, however, stood with Bal Thackeray, some of them rather reluctantly accepted Uddhav's leadership and Rane later joined the Congress.

After 16 years of political failures, Rane is now back in the headlines with complete backing of the BJP.

What the BJP Gains by 'Unleashing' on Sena

The richest civic body of the country, the Shiv Sena has been at the helm of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for 35 years. In the 2017 BMC polls where the BJP and the Shiv Sena contested separately despite being in power in the state together, the BJP had made significant inroads into the civic body by winning just two seats less than the Sena.

Now separated for good, the BJP is looking to overthrow the Sena and take control of the BMC single-handedly, which is the golden ticket to rule Mumbai.

Rane was once at the helm of the Shiv Sena and is well acquainted with the functioning of the Sena at the grassroots. His experience of being a Shiv Sainik himself might come handy for the BJP.

The BJP knows that there can't be side-lining of Bal Thackeray's legacy to win the BMC election, but there is no way of taking a softer stand against Uddhav either, so why not use Rane, who can appeal to the votes by laying claim to Bal Thackeray's legacy?

Target Uddhav and 'Mission Konkan'

The Shiv Sena is looking to contest the BMC elections on Udhhav's popularity and approval ratings as the chief minister. Ever since he joined the BJP, Rane and his sons have been attacking Uddhav and Aditya Thackeray more fiercely than before. Rane was also instrumental in fanning the fire around Aditya's name doing the rounds amid the Sushant Singh Rajput controversy.

Rane has always blamed Uddhav for his exit from the Shiv Sena, so who better than him to launch a full-blown concentrated attack against Uddhav?

Apart from the BMC, the Shiv Sena has a stronghold in the Konkan region and Rane was largely credited for expanding the Sena's base there in the early days and throwing the Congress out. So, the BJP is now using Rane's popularity in the Konkan region to expand its own base against the Sena.

The moral of the story is — the BJP knows that Narayan Rane is Shiv Sena ki dukhti rag and so much as a sneeze by Rane irks the party. So, why not use Rane to poke and provoke the now mellowed Shiv Sena to take its earlier fierce, violent avtar and dent its reputation?

If true, the BJP's plan has already started to work and these visuals from the streets of several cities and towns of Maharashtra are proof!

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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