Aaditya Thackeray is driving Ranes out of business

The Thackeray scion is deploying a strategic mix of law and development projects that will bring jobs rather than terror to the Konkan region

Aaditya Thackeray is driving Ranes out of business

Navin Kumar/Mumbai

The Konkan region of Maharashtra, famed for its scenic beauty and tourism, has always been a Shiv Sena bastion. The Bharatiya Janata Party wishes to change the political equation of the region and is banking on the 70-year-old Narayan Rane to swing its fortunes in this regard. But the Congress earlier had the same idea as did the Nationalist Congress Party which had tried to woo him over from the Congress. But when Rane failed to dent the Sena fortunes over more than a decade, they stopped having any use for him.

While he was with the Shiv Sena, Rane reigned supreme over the Konkan with a mixture of terror and charisma – his acts of terror wherein several political rivals were eliminated and Bal Thackeray’s charisma that usually got him off the hook. But now the young Shiv Sena leader, 31-year-old Aaditya Thackeray, who has inherited a party vastly different from his grandfather’s, has evolved a strategy in the new mould of the Shiv Sena to drive Rane and the BJP out of business with his own mix of the strategic use of the law and development projects that will bring jobs rather than terror to the region.

Rane made the mistake of believing that the BJP will stand by him when he expressed his desire to slap Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for no better reason except getting a fact wrong. But he failed to reckon with the BJP’s use-and-throw policy – his party allowed the Maharashtra government to arrest Rane and humiliate him by conditioning his bail on weekly presence at the local police station where he had once ruled over all and sundry.

The Thackerays had known the BJP would never come to Rane’s aid at such a time for the BJP had similarly betrayed the supremo Bal Thackeray when the Congressled government had attempted to arrest him for his complicity in the 1992-93 Mumbai riots. Thackeray was a much more powerful politician then than his minion Rane ever was and Union Home Minister LK Advani had not only allowed the potential arrest to go forward but also provided the Congress government central security forces to contain the fallout of the arrest.

Only a local magistrate who dismissed the case on grounds of it being time barred had saved Thackeray from certain humiliation. Obviously, the chief minister and his son knew very well how Rane would be abandoned.

Rane’s MLA son Nitesh Rane too has been trying to bait Aaditya with no success. He meowed at Aaditya on the steps of the Vidhan Sabha, implying that Aaditya was no tiger but a mere cat. But there was universal outrage against the BJP at that which compelled former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to pull up Nitesh and apologise to the state’s people on his behalf.

The BJP was already in considerable disquiet at losing its ground but when Aaditya met with a road accident on his tour of the Konkan, they celebrated - believing the young leader would call off his tour, thus exhibiting the despicable levels to which it has sunk as a political party.

However, Aaditya rose from the setback and received resounding support and sympathy from the people, leaving no doubt that the Shiv Sena still reigns supreme in the region.

Aaditya is both environment and tourism minister in Maharashtra and no region could be more suited to be his canvas. It has scenic beauty, beaches, estuaries, forts and temples which allows him to develop Konkan in a manner that will maintain its historicity as well as maximise the people’s earnings. Goa better beware, for it is contiguous with the Konkan and is similar in nature and Aaditya Thackeray has a clear eye on snatching tourists from the neighbouring state.

Accordingly, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has made a provision of Rs 3500 crore for the construction of Bankot, Kelari, Dabhol, Jaigad Gulf bridges and concretisation of the entire route as also a provision of Rs 100 crore for the development of the Sindhudurg and Raigad forts associated with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. A Cancer Research Centre and hospital have also been budgeted for as also a much-needed agricultural university in the region.

The reason why the BJP may be more disgruntled is also that the MVA government is junking two of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s pet projects, the Chanda-to-Banda corridor that saw more funds spent in Vidarbha, Fadnavis’s home ground, than in the Konlan and the Nanar refinery. But cleverly they are tweaking both projects in a manner that will not completely destroy employment opportunities in the region as well as not violate the environment of the region. The projects will go forward with respectively more focus on the Konkan and the peoples wishes with regard to the refinery.

Rane’s complete lack of commitment to the region has also been exposed by his earlier opposition to the Nanar Refinery (with Saudi Arabian investment) and now his support to the project just because it was Fadnavis’s favourite scheme that would have completely destroyed the environment.

The BJP is dismayed and another electoral defeat could soon cost the Ranes their political career.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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