Eye on Maharashtra: Living in glass houses

Neither is Navneet Rana a Dalit, nor is Kirit Somaiya a Good Samaritan. Both are frauds and both are now in serious trouble for corruption

Eye on Maharashtra: Living in glass houses

Sujata Anandan

People in glass houses should not throw stones at the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi. That is what some BJP leaders and those associated with the party are learning to their sorrow.

Former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya has a visceral hatred of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray because the latter had manipulated then BJP president Amit Shah into denying Somaiya a ticket as a price for his party's alliance with the Shiv Sena.

But why blame Uddhav Thackeray? After all, Uddhav had only exacted his return for the nasty statements and allegations Somaiya had been making against him while his party was in government with the BJP both in the state and at the Centre. Now it was then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis who put Somaiya up to such shenanigans and while Somaiya should have been circumspect and kept his own counsel, he should actually blame Fadnavis for not standing by him and Shah for so easily throwing over a party MP on an ally’s say so.

But Somaiya was always too eager to please – as he did then top leader LK Advani who did not want the rise of then party president Nitin Gadkari and thus was primarily responsible for the allegations of corruption against Gadkari.

But now the MVA has dug up its own cases against Somaiya and with rather more documentation than Somaiya has been able to produce against Uddhav Thackeray or other leaders in the MVA. He is now having to answer for swallowing up Rs 58 lakh he had raised through crowd sourcing to save the INS Vikrant, India's first fighter carrier, from being turned to scrap.

It was condemned anyway and Somaiya did not return the money to those who had eagerly come forward to save the ship – now he is having to run between police pillars and Courts to seek bail and stay out of prison.

On the other side, acting as a BJP stooge is former Kannada and Telegu film star and independent MP Navneet Rana who was the joint candidate of the NCP and Congress from Amravati in 2019. She defeated a long-standing Shiv Sena MP Anandrao Adsul, a favourite of both Uddhav Thackeray and Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut.

May be the Shiv Sena leaders are unable to forgive her for defeating their favourite but this former actress is still acting. She is alleged to have fudged her school and other records to get a Scheduled Caste certificate she is undeserving of.

The allegation was first made by Adsul and a police investigation which established the truth of the allegation has led to the cancellation of her forged caste certificate by the Bombay High Court, pending appeal in the Supreme Court. But now the Shiv Sena has been going to town over the forged caste certificate and thus her attempts to accuse the policemen who arrested her of caste slurs against her is cutting no ice.

If she was not given drinking water or allowed to use the toilet, her ordeal was no greater than that of the Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, a patient of advanced Parkinson's Disease who was not allowed a straw to sip water or Gautam Naulakha, also an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, who was not allowed spectacles after he lost his earlier glasses. Rather inhuman on the part of the authorities in every case but certainly nothing to do with caste biases.

However, the use of the Rana couple, whose marriage was arranged by yoga guru Ramdev (both had attended his yoga camps at different times), indicates the BJP's desperation to dent the MVA government which seems to be proving rather teflon-esque in character.

The charge of sedition against them for trying to play the Hanuman Chalisa outside the CM's residence has been described as extreme by some but it was most certainly an attempt to vitiate the atmosphere and create riots in the state.

NCP president Sharad Pawar has said that the chief minister is not an individual but an institution and in view of how other people have been charged under the same laws for merely mimicking Narendra Modi, the BJP does not have much of a defence here.

Then there is the fact that the genuine born Dalit MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mewani was arbitrarily picked up by the Assam Police for an innocuous tweet that did not even ridicule Modi, been treated badly by the cops and is not even whining like Navneet Rana (nor is her husband Ravi Rana, to be fair, also sent to the Taloja jail).

It is, however, surprising that she risked exposè by falling back on her faux Dalit status – the Bombay High Court has already established otherwise - and could soon find herself on a limb as the BJP drops her without ceremony once her fraudulent caste certificate proves a political hot potato.

The Ranas are political vagabonds (her husband is an independent MLA in Maharashtra) but may have overplayed their hand traversing between the NCP-Congress and the BJP. The Shiv Sena is the only party that was permanently ranged against them and given that it is leading the MVA government, their glass house could soon be in shards. If the BJP could drop a party MP without ceremony, an independent supporter could be of no consequence once her use is over.

There is another proverb that fits the Ranas well – that of rolling stones. As for Somaiya, if he stretches his neck out too far for ungrateful leaders like Fadnavis, he may soon find a noose tightening round it.

(Sujata Anandan is Consulting Editor, National Herald Mumbai)

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