Rane pays tribute at Bal Thackeray memorial, Sena leaders ‘purify’ site

On Wednesday, Shiv Sena leader and MP Vinayak Raut had said that Rane does not have the “moral right” to visit Thackeray’s memorial and Shiv Sainiks will not allow him.

Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Narayan Rane on Thursday made a foray into Shiv Sena territory by paying a floral tribute at the Bal Thackeray memorial in Shivaji Park here.

The visit to the Thackeray memorial, the first stop on his “Jan Ashirwad Yatra” of the Konkan area of the state, took place amid tight security. The state government deployed additional police personnel to avoid clashes between Sena and BJP workers. The BMC had stripped his route between Bandra and Dadar clean of his posters.

On Wednesday, Shiv Sena leader and MP Vinayak Raut had said that Rane does not have the “moral right” to visit Thackeray’s memorial and Shiv Sainiks will not allow him. But Rane’s on Thursday visit passed uneventfully after what appears to have been a deliberate decision by the party to ignore the minister.

“Every party carries out its activities. The MVA government is performing excellently under the leadership of CM Uddhav Thackeray. If anybody holds a rally, it doesn’t matter. It is the party’s matter,” Eknath Shinde, Urban Development Minister, told the media when asked about Rane’s tour in Mumbai.

Sources in the Sena said the party leadership asked its cadre not to resort to any protest or opposition. However, the party is watching the BJP rally and Rane closely, said a leader.

Soon after Rane’s visit, however, Appa Patil and a few other Sena leaders conducted a “purification ceremony” at the memorial. “This place had become unholy after a visit by some people. So I sprayed gaumutra and performed abhishek with milk to purify it. He (Rane) remembered Shiv Sena today. After leaving Sena, for so many years, he did not remember Balasaheb. After the visit, he said the government headed by Uddhav Thackeray, Balasaheb’s son, is destroying Maharashtra. Uddhav ji is in the top five CMs in the country. No Shiv Sainik will tolerate such things,” Patil told mediapersons.

State BJP leaders accorded Rane a grand welcome at the airport, from where he drove in the special purpose yatra vehicle from Andheri to Shivaji Park via Vile Parle, Bandra.

At the Thackeray memorial, Rane offered flowers, bowed his head and folded his hands to express salutation to his political mentor. Speaking to the media, Rane said, “I offered my tribute and gratitude to Saheb (Bal Thackeray). I know in my heart that if he was present, he would have been proud of my achievements. His blessings will always be with me.”

On some Sena leaders disapproving of his visit to the memorial, Rane said, “When you visit the Thackeray memorial, it is to offer reverence. Why should anybody object? It is petty.”

Saying he was already “overwhelmed” by the response to the Jan Ashirwad Yatra, he predicted the BJP would win the Mumbai civic elections due early next year. “BJP will return to power. We will ensure the end of three decades of Shiv Sena regime in BMC,” he asserted.

Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis said, “Those questioning Rane’s visit to the Thackeray memorial are displaying their shallow thinking. In our tradition, we often set aside our ideologies and differences when we visit the memorial of great persons.”

Outside the airport, Rane addressed people from a makeshift podium. He targeted Uddhav, making it clear that this was the agenda of the tour. “Uddhav is leading the state towards demolition,” Rane declared, pledging that the yatra was the start of BJP’s comeback.

Rane’s yatra is part of the BJP’s early campaign for the BMC elections. In the 2017 BMC elections, Sena and BJP contested against each other despite being alliance partners in the Fadnavis-led state government. The contest for 227 wards saw BJP winning 82 seats and Sena 84.

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