The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday unequivocally rejected Union MSME Minister Narayan Rane’s ‘slap slur’ comments against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Simultaneously, the Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said that the party stands solidly behind Rane and accused the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of ‘misusing’ the police to target the BJP leaders.
Addressing the media, he said that the party does not endorse Rane’s comment threatening to ‘slap’ the CM, but also would not tolerate any attempts by the MVA government to slap ‘cognisable offences’ against the Union Minister.
“The statements may attract non-cognisable charges, but they are illegally trying to make it ‘cognisable’, and police teams have been despatched to act against Rane. This will not stand in the courts,” Fadnavis asserted.
He further said that if Rane is arrested, the ongoing ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’ will not be halted and it would be continued forward by others like Leader of Opposition (Council) Pravin Darekar, Ashish Shelar, etc.
“The government is taking prompt steps against Rane. But they did not show such speed to act vis-a-vis Sharjeel Usman who abused Bharat Mata and Hindutva in Maharashtra. The (MVA) has no courage” Fadnavis said.
The reference was to the Aligarh Muslim University student and anti-CAA activist who is facing a case under Pune Police for his statements on January 30 this year at an Elgar Parishad meeting.
Fadnavis’ comments came amid an all-out agitation triggered by Rane’s statement of Monday night, with Shiv Sena and BJP activists coming in direct confrontation and police resorting to mild caning to control them.
Responding to Sena’s challenges that he would not be allowed to step out of Chiplun around in his Yatra, Rane dared anybody to come and stop him from moving around in his processions.
“They can do nothing. If they have the guts, ask them to come and see me. I am still going around freely, no?” Rane retorted sharply.
As the ruling MVA partners, Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress stuck together, Sena activists staged massive demonstrations in Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Nashik, Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Nagpur, Amravati, and other places.
Sena activists agitated by stone-pelting or vandalism at BJP offices, a mall allegedly linked with Rane in Pune, roadblocks, tearing off BJP banners or hoardings, burning his effigies, carrying hens and beating his photos with shoes, sit-ins, a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to sack him, and offers to ‘bear the full cost of mental treatment’ for Rane at the Thane Mental Asylum.
Fadnavis issued a veiled warning that if the BJP offices were targeted and the police remained mute spectators, there would be repercussions as the BJP activists are also street-fighters who are fully capable of protecting themselves but urged for restraint.
BJP State President Chandrakant Patil distanced himself from Rane’s comments, while Republican Party of India (A) President and Union MoS Ramdas Athawale pointed out that “Rane is a product of Shiv Sena and spoke the language they understand”.