Union minister Narayan Rane was arrested on Tuesday over his controversial remarks against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, which triggered a political row and protests.
He was granted bail hours later after he cited his health and argued that he was arrested without proper notice on “politically motivated” charges.
Rane had said that he would have slapped Thackeray over the latter’s ignorance of the year of India’s independence.
Rane was taken into custody by police in the coastal Ratnagiri district, where he is travelling as part of the Jan Ashirwad Yatra, and taken to the Sangameshwar police station, an official said.
A complaint was lodged by Nashik city Shiv Sena unit chief at the cyber police station there, after which an FIR was registered against Rane under IPC sections 500 (defamation), 505(2) (mischief), 153-B (1)(c) (remarks likely to cause disharmony, or feeling of enmity or hatred or ill-will), a police official said.
There were reports that while the process to arrest him was on, Rane complained of high blood pressure and sugar levels and a doctor was called to examine him.
“It is shameful that the chief minister does not know the year of 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,” Rane said in adjoining Raigad district on Monday.
The former chief minister claimed Thackeray forgot the year of independence during his August 15 address to the people of the state. Thackeray had to check the year of independence with his aides midway during the speech that day, Rane said.
On media reportage of his ‘imminent arrest’ in the case, Rane said — hours before his arrest — that he was not a ‘normal’ man and cautioned the media against such reportage.
“I haven’t committed any crime. You should verify and show it on TV or else I will file a case against you (media). Despite not committing any crime, the media is showing speculative news about my ‘imminent’ arrest. Do you think I am a normal (ordinary) man?” Rane said.
Rane’s remarks drew sharp reactions from Shiv Sena, whose workers put several posters in Mumbai and other places, calling him a ‘kombdi chor’ (chicken stealer), a reference to the poultry shop he ran in Mumbai’s Chembur area five decades ago, during the initial part of his over four-decade stint with the Bal Thackeray-led party.
Activists of Shiv Sena and its youth wing staged protests in various cities across Maharashtra against Rane.
In Pune’s Deccan Gymkhana area, Sena workers slapped posters of Rane with footwear. Yuva Sena workers staged a demonstration in Hadapsar.
A stone was hurled at a mall located on JM Road in Pune, a police official said.
In Amravati, Sena workers vandalised the BJP office located in the Rajapeth area and also set various posters installed in front of the office on fire in protest against Rane’s remarks.
No BJP office-bearer or party worker was present in the office at the time of the incident.
Sena activists poured petrol, brought by them in bottles, on the posters installed outside the office and set them afire around noon. They also hurled stones at the office.
Heavy police security was deployed outside Rane’s residence in Mumbai in the wake of his remarks against Thackeray, an official said.
BJP workers gathered outside Rane’s residence on Juhu Tara Road in Santacruz (West) in the morning in support of their party leader.
Shiv Sena workers carrying placards and shouting slogans against Rane assembled in the Juhu area.
Police personnel, including women cops, were deployed outside Rane’s residence to prevent any untoward incident, the official said.
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil distanced himself from Rane’s remarks. “I am not defending Rane’s comments, but I will also not express regret,” Patil said.
Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said the BJP does not support Rane’s comments, but the “party stands behind him 100 per cent”.
Alleging that the state police force was being used as a tool for “vendetta politics”, the former chief minister said there should be law and order and “not Taliban-like governance”.
Union minister Ramdas Athawale said Rane didn’t intend to insult Thackeray and will clarify his statement.
“Rane only meant that Thackeray is not doing anything for the development of Maharashtra and he seldom steps out of his residence ‘Matoshree’ in Mumbai to understand the problems faced by the people. Rane meant that such a chief minister does not have the right to occupy the chair. This was his feeling,” he said.
Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding the sacking of Rane over his remarks against the Maharashtra chief minister.
Raut said it was beyond his comprehension what message Rane would give to society when he was using such language.
Talking to reporters later, Raut said Rane should resign from the Modi ministry.
Nashik Police Commissioner Deepak Pandey on Tuesday issued orders for the immediate arrest of Rane and a team of city police left for the Konkan region.
Rane approached the Bombay High Court, challenging the FIRs registered against him in parts of Maharashtra over his remarks against Thackeray, and sought protection from arrest.
The BJP leader also sought an interim order granting him protection from arrest or any coercive action.
The petition was mentioned before a division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar, seeking an urgent hearing on Tuesday itself.
The bench, however, refused to hear it and said mentioning (of the petition) was not allowed and asked the lawyer to follow the procedure.
“Apply to the Registry department seeking urgent hearing and then we will consider,” the court said.
“Everyone has to go through the process. Don’t make us do the job of the Registry,” the HC said.
The petition has challenged three FIRs lodged against Rane in Pune, Nashik and Mahad in Raigad.