Rana couple scraps ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ protest plan at Matoshree. Arrested
MUMBAI: The stand-off between the Shiv Sena and the Rana couple came to an end on Saturday afternoon, with the two independent lawmakers calling off plans to chant ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ outside Matoshree, the residence of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
They were later arrested by the Mumbai Police and will be produced before a city magistrate on Sunday. "We have arrested them under various sections of IPC and Bombay Police Act," said Mahadev Nimbalkar, senior police inspector of Khar police station.
The Ranas have been booked under section 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language) of the Indian Penal Code and section 135 (violation of prohibitory orders of police) of the Maharashtra Police Act.
Nimbalkar said the couple will be produced before a metropolitan magistrate's court at Bandra on Sunday.
Hours before the police took MLA Ravi Rana and his wife and Amravati MP Navneet Kaur Rana into custody from their Khar house, where they had been surrounded by Shiv Sainiks to prevent them from going to Matoshree, Ravi Rana declared that they were scrapping their plan in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Mumbai on Sunday. PM Modi is scheduled to be in Mumbai to receive an award instituted in the memory of vocalist Lata Mangeshkar.
“We are withdrawing our agitation… the people will show him (Uddhav) his place,” Ravi Rana said, insisting that they had backed down to ensure that the law and order situation didn’t deteriorate and lead to the cancellation of PM Modi’s visit to Mumbai.
“We have not withdrawn due to any pressure,” he said, acknowledging that BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis did reach out to them to withdraw the protest for now in view of the PM visit.
Navneet Kaur accused Uddhav of ditching Hindutva. “The Prime Minister is coming to Mumbai (on Sunday)… so we are withdrawing as we do not want any lacunae in these arrangements. We are not scared of Shiv Sainiks and goons,” she claimed.
The Ranas, who support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had threatened to recite the hymn outside Matoshree to protest Uddhav Thackeray who the couple said, had neglected the credo of Hindutva as espoused by late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. The complaint mirrors the point that the BJP has been making ever since Thackeray became the chief minister. That the Shiv Sena’s commitment to Hindutva has been diluted by Uddhav Thackeray after he decided to partner with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to form the.Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra.
Ravi Rana is a third-term MLA from Badnera in Amravati, while his wife is a first-term independent MP from the constituency. Navneet Kaur was elected with the NCP’s support against senior Sena leader Anandrao Adsul before the Shiv Sena and NCP entered into an alliance.
Saturday saw high-voltage drama in Khar, a western suburb of Mumbai which is not far from Thackeray’s residence, Matoshree, at Bandra.
The Ranas flew down to Mumbai from Nagpur in the early hours of Friday to execute their Hanuman Chalisa plan.
But before they could step out of their Khar residence for the high-profile protest outside Matoshree in Bandra East, Shiv Sena leaders deployed hundreds of party workers outside the Rana couple’s house.
Shiv Sainiks also formed a ring around Matoshree.
On Friday evening, Shiv Sainiks also allegedly attacked BJP leader Mohit Kamboj’s car. Sainiks said he was conducting a recee; Kamboj claimed he was returning from a wedding.
Rana has claimed that his residence at Amravati was also stoned by Shiv Sena workers.
Shiv Sena leaders promptly declared victory. Sena MP Sanjay Raut said that the BJP was using proxies like the Ranas to attack them.
“They want to spoil the environment in Maharashtra, and spread anarchy. They are using such people to attack us since they themselves don’t have the courage to do so,” he charged without naming the BJP. “Henceforth, if anyone takes on the Shiv Sena, they must prepare for their final rites,” Raut said.
“Once again, it is evident that no one can come to Mumbai and Maharashtra and challenge Matoshree,” exulted Yuva Sena leader Varun Sardesai, environment minister Aaditya Thackeray’s first cousin, who led the protest at Khar.
“They will have to give excuses. They were scared to even set foot outside their home for two days. Now, they are putting forward the reason for Modi saheb’s tour,” Sardesai added.
Outside the Rana house in Khar, the Shiv Sainiks refused to budge despite the Ranas announcing the change in plan. They wanted an apology before the couple could step out.
Union minister Narayan Rane blamed the state government for the situation and warned that in case the Ranas were hurt, the responsibility would lie with the state government.
As the police finally evacuated the couple at about 5pm, Sardesai appealed to Shiv Sainiks to not take the law into their hands.
“For us, these two are inconsequential. But those who are playing politics from behind them want the Shiv Sena to take the law into their hands so that they can seek the imposition of President’s rule,” Sardesai said.
The Ranas, however, initially refused to leave with the police for the Khar police station and asked them to produce a warrant. They asked why a case had been registered against them but the Saininks who laid siege to the house in Mumbai and pelted stones at their Amravati residence had been let off.
The couple was eventually taken out of the area shortly after 5.30pm.
BJP leader Pravin Darekar, who is the leader of the opposition in the legislative council, claimed that “an anarchy like situation” was prevailing in Maharashtra, and President’s rule must be imposed in the state.
Senior BJP leader Ashish Shelar, however, later distanced the party from the demand.
Home minister Dilip Walse Patil said the Ranas were pawns in an effort to tarnish the government’s image.
“The law-and-order situation in Mumbai and Maharashtra is excellent, but some people want to show it has collapsed by orchestrating different events… this (President’s rule) is being sought by the BJP. These things are being done to create an enabling environment,” said home minister Patil. He added that if the Ranas wanted to recite the Hanuman Chalisa, they could do it inside their house in Amravati, Mumbai or Delhi. “They (Ranas) are mere pawns… the image of the government is being purposely tarnished,” charged Walse Patil.
BJP leaders also met the commissioner of police Sanjay Pandey earlier to demand that the Shiv Sainiks, who allegedly attacked Kamboj on Friday, be booked for an attempt to murder. The delegation, which included Darekar, Mumbai BJP president Mangalprabhat Lodha and legislator Atul Bhatkhalkar also sought action against Sainiks who had allegedly attacked vehicles being used in the BJP’s city-wide ‘Polkhol’ campaign against the Shiv Sena-controlled BMC.