Narayan Rane-Uddhav Thackeray’s festering rivalry spills over

Union Minister Narayan Rane and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.  

From a surprise choice as Shiv Sena’s second Chief Minister of Maharashtra in 1999 to becoming a first serving Union Cabinet Minister in the last 20 years to get arrested by a State government, Narayan Rane’s political journey is closely intertwined with that of his former party, so much so that his present political existence depends on his ability to counter Sena president and Maharashtra Chief Minister — and his arch-rival — Uddhav Thackeray.

In 2005, Mr. Rane led a coup within the Sena against Uddhav Thackeray and his coterie. He had a reputation of being a muscle-man ingrained in the Sena’s political culture, an opposition leader whom the ministers in the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government feared and a close confidante of Sena founder, the late Balasaheb Thackeray.


Unexpected rebellion

His rebellion against the Sena, unheard of since the time of NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal in 1990s, was followed by sharp criticism of Uddhav. Over the years, criticism turned into bitterness, with both sides leaving no opportunity to berate each other. The bitterness has also percolated to the next generation.

Mr Rane has claimed several times that he joined the Congress as the party promised him the Chief Minister’s chair. To claim the post, he ensured that several Sena leaders also crossed over with him. Against those who ditched him at the last moment, he maintains a grudge even today.

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Decimating the Sena in by-elections in 2005 in its bastion of Malvan in Sindhudurg after moving to the Congress, Mr. Rane boasted of wiping out the saffron party led by Uddhav Thackeray from Konkan — the backbone of the Sena's organisational structure. The Congress kept promising him the top post. But first the Revenue department and later the Industries department was all he was given.

On the other hand, Uddhav Thackeray was struggling to keep the flock together after another rebellion by his cousin Raj Thackeray. A dismal performance in 2009 Assembly polls led to questions on his ability to run the Sena like his father. In 2012 after the death of Bal Thackeray, he became the party president.

Personal attacks

In all these years, Mr. Rane continued and intensified his acerbic attacks on Mr. Thackeray even while expressing utmost loyalty towards Bal Thackeray. The Swabhimani Sanghatana, an outfit ran by his younger son Nitesh Rane countered the Sena in Mumbai.

Mr. Thackeray meanwhile has maintained a stoic silence all through even as Mr Rane continued personal attacks .

In the 2014 Assembly polls, however, Mr. Rane tasted his first defeat at his home turf Kudal by Sena’s rookie Vaibhav Naik. Two years later, Mr. Rane decided to contest by-poll at Bandra east where Mr. Thackeray's residence is located. He was defeated again, by the Sena’s Trupti Sawant.

With BJP and Sena in power in the State and his party Congress losing ground, Mr Rane decided to enter State council. As he began targeting the State government, stories about Enforcement Directorate (ED) probing his properties appeared in newspapers, though he was never officially questioned. He quit the Congress in 2017 to start his own party, the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha (MSP). In 2018, the BJP sent him to Rajya Sabha and in 2019 he officially joined the party before the Assembly polls.

After the elections, Mr. Thackeray become Chief Minister, heading the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. Mr. Rane’s personal attacks on the Thackeray family continued, and intensified in the aftermath of the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Mr. Thackeray again chose silence.

Prestige battle

With an eye on the upcoming prestige battle for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the BJP promoted Mr Rane to the Union Cabinet with a mandate to counter the Sena in Mumbai.

However, his Jan Ashirwad Yatra turned into a rude show of abuse, disrespect and unparlimentary language against Mr. Thackeray. His press conference in Mahad provided the Sena with the perfect opportunity to hit back.

While Mr. Rane has never addressed Mr. Thackeray with respect, the Sena leader has refused to acknowledge any of his statements in public. The rivalry between the two now seems to have reached a new low.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 4:15:25 AM |

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