Maharashtra remembers 'Narya-Harya': Narayan Rane’s past, present and future

Rane, hopefully wiser, would know how long to bark on behalf of the BJP. Once he bites, his utility will be over

Illustration by Crasto
Illustration by Crasto
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Sujata Anandan

The trouble with Narayan Rane is that he has never been able to get over not being able to become chief minister the second time.

And how did he become chief minister the first time under the Shiv Sena? By bullying the great bully Bal Thackeray, who used to cringe every time he saw from his window Rane closing in on Matoshree.

Before Thackeray could escape, Rane would be upon him and badger Thackeray to replace Manohar Joshi with him. It was a ritual that played out every time Rane called on the Shiv Sena chief until Thackeray finally got tired and caved in. But then there were early polls that year (1999) and in a hung assembly verdict, Joshi, full of resentment against Rane, made sure the latter would not have the numbers (by hiding away every MLA whose support Rane may have secured). Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) moved in to form the government.

When Rane joined the Congress in 2005, he thought he could similarly bully Sonia Gandhi into making him the chief minister but he never even got a look-in at 10, Janpath. So he arrived at one AICC meet for a show of strength with a posse of supporters and was instead cowed down by Sonia Gandhi’s own strength--a row of the most powerful chief ministers, governors and opposition leaders in the country who were all waiting to greet her on the dais.

“You should have seen him walk in with such a puffed up chest and surrounded by all his goons! We could actually see him deflate like a pricked balloon when he realised what he was up against,” a Congress leader had told me then.

Goons? Was he surrounded by goons? Well, the High Command did not know of his criminal background when he was admitted to the Congress. Rane began life as a dock rat, stealing from containers anchored in the ports and was one day beaten to the bone by a smuggler for invading his turf. When he recovered, he sought political protection by joining the Shiv Sena. It was years later when Bal Thackeray himself gave out that secret--that Narayan Rane was the Narya of the Harya-Narya gang of Chembur.

This was later confirmed by a top cop who had refused to salute Rane when he was chief minister for, as he said, “Rane is the cruel joke of democracy on its steel frame.” By that he meant he wouldn’t salute a man he’d had in police custody as a young officer and the bureaucracy, the steel frame, could not kowtow to a criminal.

By this time, with much political power Rane has added more to his repertoire including criminal intimidation and murder charges; he got away in court by simply staring down the witnesses.

When in office as chief minister, how many calls did he make to fellow compatriot from Chembur, Chhota Rajan, the notorious don, from the official telephone? The bureaucrats would squirm but could do little to stop the chief minister. They were all quite happy he never could return to that office--he had forced many an officer to opt for voluntary retirement simply to escape his intimidatory tactics.

This then is the man BJP expects to bring down the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. They are well aware he hip-hops from one party to another (including briefly his own which he set up when former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis resisted his entry into the BJP to prevent the competition) simply to gain the office of the chief minister. It speaks volumes of Rane’s political sense to believe that BJP, which refused to part with the chief minister’s chair for its then ally Shiv Sena, would accommodate Rane in that office.


BJP is however banking on Rane’s visceral hatred for Uddhav Thackeray to bring down the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra. Rane blames Uddhav for putting Joshi up and deny him the CMO– he had needed only three or four MLAs but every time he poached three from other parties, two from his own disappeared just as he would be getting ready to visit Raj Bhavan with them to stake his claim. He could never get his numbers right – all the Sena MLAs, he discovered, preferred Uddhav to him and he has not forgotten that.

The BJP is fanning that flame of jealousy – imagine his angst at having his bète-noire occupy his coveted office for two years that he did not get to stay in for even six months! So Rane periodically pronounces a date for the fall of the government as he did last week to stay relevant.

Even Rane would however be aware of BJP’s use and throw policy. As an RSS ideologue recently confided. “Aapko maloom hona chahiye, Hindu sanskriti mein dus din tak Ganpati ki pooja ki jaati hai aur phir gyarhave din unka Visarjan kar diya jaata hai”!

Like LK Advani and MM Joshi, he alluded, even the current leadership will not escape a dunking into the sea once RSS is convinced their utility is over.

Rane, hopefully wiser, would know how long to bark on behalf of the BJP. Once he bites, his utility would be over and BJP will be twice shy of even acknowledging his contribution to the party. Ask Advani.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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