The Maharashtra Police on Tuesday arrested Union minister Narayan Rane for his remarks on slapping Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for not knowing the year of India’s independence, PTI reported.
On Tuesday night, Rane was sent to judicial custody, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Prasad Lad told ANI.
This is the first time in 20 years that a central minister has been arrested, according to NDTV. Rane joined the Cabinet in July as the minister for micro, small and medium Enterprises.
He was arrested by the Nashik Police at Sangameshwar in Ratnagiri district. The police is also likely to take the Union minister to Nashik, according to The Indian Express.
Earlier on Tuesday, Nashik Police Commissioner Deepak Pandey issued a warrant for Rane’s arrest after three first information reports were filed against him for making the comment. However, India Today reported that there were four FIRs against him.
The arrests came after a district court in Ratnagiri and the Bombay High Court refused to grant relief to Rane.
The minister had moved an anticipatory bail petition in the Ratnagiri court. In the High Court, he challenged the FIRs and sought protection from arrest, PTI reported. However, both courts rejected his pleas.
At an event in Raigad district on Monday, Rane claimed that Thackeray had forgotten the year of independence during his August 15 speech.
“It is shameful that the chief minister does not know the year of independence,” Rane was quoted as saying by the news agency. “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’s comments angered the Shiv Sena and members of the party held protests in several cities of Maharashtra against the remarks.
On Tuesday morning, party workers threw stones at the BJP’s office in Nashik, ANI reported. Some others, on their way to Rane’s home in Mumbai, clashed with BJP workers and the police. Party workers in Pune threw slippers at Rane’s posters, PTI reported. At Amravati in east Maharashtra, Shiv Sena workers vandalised the BJP office in the Rajapeth area and set several posters at the office on fire.
The Mumbai Police have registered two separate FIRs against members of Shiv Sena and the BJP for holding protests outside Rane’s house in the city’s Juhu area, ANI reported.
The charges in these FIRs include sections under the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Indian Penal Code’s Sections 188 (disobedience to public servant’s orders), 269 and 270 (act to spread disease) and 34 (criminal act by several persons with common intention).
Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut said Rane had lost his “mental balance” after joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet, PTI reported. “To impress BJP leadership, Rane has been attacking Shiv Sena and its leaders,” Raut added.
The Shiv Sena leader also wrote to Modi, asking him to sack Rane from the Cabinet.
Meanwhile, Rane defended his comments “I have no info [information] that an FIR has been registered against me,” he told ANI. “I am not a common man. I have not committed any crime. Is it not a crime if someone doesn’t know about 15th August?”
BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda said that Rane’s arrest was in violation of constitutional values and that the party will not be scared or suppressed by such actions.
“These people are troubled by the immense support the BJP is getting in the Jan Aashirvad Yatra [a BJP state unit programme],” Nadda tweeted. “We will continue to fight democratically, the yatra will continue.”
The BJP said that the yatra, which was being led by Rane, will now be held under the leadership of Pravin Darekar, the Leader of Opposition in the State Legislative Council.
Union minister Smriti Irani said that the incident shows the “depravity” which will now be politically exhibited in Maharashtra, reported ANI. “It’s a sad day in our constitutional history,” she added.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis told ANI that he as well as the party stood with Rane, adding however, that they do not support his statement.
The former chief minister also questioned why an FIR was filed against the Union minister, while no case was registered against former student leader Sharjeel Usmani, who, according to him, had “abused Bharat Mata”.
“I want to tell the police commissioner that if there is no action against those who attacked our offices then Opposition leaders will sit on dharna at the police commissioner’s office,” he added. “There should be a rule of law, not Taliban rule.”
The BJP in February had criticised the state government for its initial inaction to Usmani’s remarks at the Elgar Parishad 2021 conclave. The Pune Police subsequently filed an FIR against him.
Fadnavis on Tuesday also condemned incidents of violence in the state, saying they were state-sponsored.
BJP state chief Chandrakant Patil sought to distance himself from Rane’s comment, but said that the arrest warrant was not justified, ANI reported.
“I don’t support Narayan Rane’s statement,” he told reporters. “But if he is arrested or arrest warrant is issued against him for remarks against chief minister, what is happening to their [Shiv Sena] leaders who comment against governor, a constitutional functionary, almost daily.”