Mumbai Police on Saturday evening arrested MLA Ravi Rana and his wife, MP Navneet Rana, both Independent legislators from eastern Maharashtra, for allegedly "creating enmity between different groups" after escorting them out of their house in suburban Khar amid high drama.
The development came hours after the couple cancelled their plan to recite the Hanuman Chalisa outside Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's private residence `Matoshree' here. The Ranas were booked under IPC section 153 (A) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), and section 135 of the Mumbai Police Act (violation of prohibitory orders of police), said an official of the Khar police station in western Mumbai.
At the Khar police station, Navneet Rana, who is MP from Amravati in Maharashtra, and Ravi Rana, MLA from Badnera in Amravati district, submitted a complaint against chief minister Thackeray, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, and Sena leader and state transport minister Anil Parab, accusing them of instigating people to `kill' the couple. But no case had been registered yet, police said. Earlier this month, Ravi Rana had demanded that CM Thackeray, who heads the Shiv Sena, recite the Hanuman Chalisa at his residence on Hanuman Jayanti, and announced that if the chief minister did not do so, he would go to Matoshree and recite it.
On Friday, Ravi Rana had said he would visit Matoshree on Saturday. But as his announcement drew a strong reaction from Shiv Sena cadres, on Saturday morning he announced that he and his wife were cancelling their plan so as not to create any law and order situation ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Mumbai on April 24.
But despite their backtracking, another high-voltage drama began as Sena cadres laid a siege to the building in suburban Khar where the couple were staying, and said the Ranas would not be allowed to leave until they apologized for insulting Matoshree, their "temple". Sena workers also tried to break through barricades and enter the building in the morning, but were stopped by police.
When police sought to escort the Ranas to Khar police station late in the afternoon, the couple were initially seen arguing with them, saying they would not budge until criminal cases were also registered against Sena leaders who `threatened' them. Navneet Rana also demanded that police produce a warrant.
But later they agreed to step out, and left in two police vehicles. An empty water bottle was thrown in their direction when the came out.
Some Sena leaders claimed that Ravi Rana used swear-words for CM Thackeray as he entered the Khar police station.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, speaking in Nagpur, said the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government's way of handling the entire episode was "very childish".
"If allowed, the Rana couple would have gone there (Matoshree), recited Hanuman Chalisa and returned without creating any news. I don't understand why so many people had gathered at several places as if they (Rana couple) were planning some attack. What kind of politics is this?" the former chief minister said.
In Amravati city, Shiv Sena workers staged protests outside the Ranas' residence.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut said some "bogus people" were trying to vitiate the atmosphere in the state, and were being backed by the BJP. He also alleged the Union government was helping Navneet Rana, who is embroiled in a legal battle over the validity of her caste certificate.
In a veiled swipe at the BJP, state minister and Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat said that to divert attention from the Union government's failures, "some people are deliberately stoking political controversy" and "trying to disturb peace by playing politics over Hanuman Chalisa." In the morning, Ravi Rana told reporters that BJP leader Fadnavis asked him not to go ahead with the recitation of Hanuman Chalisa outside Matoshree, as there should not be any untoward incident in the city a day before Prime Minister Modi is to be felicitated with the Lata Deenanath Mangeshkar award. He therefore cancelled the plan, the MLA added. He also slammed the chief minister, saying if "there is an iota of late Balasaheb Thackeray's thoughts left in Uddhav Thackeray, he should not distance himself from the Hindutva ideology." Rana had supported the BJP-Sena government during 2014-19.
His demand that CM Thackeray recite the Hanuman Chalisa followed MNS chief Raj Thackeray's 'ultimatum' to the Sena-NCP-Congress government to remove loudspeakers from mosques by May 3. Raj threatened to play Hanuman Chalisa outside the mosques if the demand was not met.