Mumbai: Around 11 am Monday morning, a team of officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) reached the upscale, sea-facing residence of Union Minister Narayan Rane with a remit to inspect the Juhu bungalow for any illegal construction.
Outside, a group of policemen guarded the house amid a crowd of reporters and onlookers.
The inspection was just another episode in the ongoing political feud between the Shiv Sena and the Rane family.
The allegation is that the BJP minister has violated Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms and constructed more floors than he had permission for. The leader has refuted all the charges. In turn, he alleged violations in the construction of the Thackerays’ new residence in Bandra.
It was also a stark reminder of a similar exercise in 2020, when the Shiv Sena-led BMC had not only inspected, but bulldozed actor Kangana Ranaut’s office in Mumbai for alleged illegal construction after a severe war of words between Ranaut and the Sena.
When the BMC team visited ‘Adhish’ in posh Juhu along with police personnel, the Union minister was present in the bungalow. The officials inspected some documents and photographs, according to BMC sources.
The BMC acted after a complaint from a local activist, Santosh Daundkar, who alleged that CRZ norms were violated while building the swanky eight-floor bungalow.
“I have been repeatedly sending complaints to the BMC since 2017. Nothing was done so far and with the pandemic, things got pushed a bit later,” Daundkar told ThePrint.
Denying the allegation, Narayan Rane told mediapersons, “I have followed all the rules while building the bungalow at that time and never violated any rules. Despite that, Shiv Sena, especially Matoshree (residence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray), sent me a notice,” Narayan Rane told mediapersons.
The bungalow falls under BMC’s K-West civic ward, which is located in the western suburbs.
ThePrint tried to contact the assistant municipal commissioner (AMC) of the ward, Prithviraj Chauhan, over phone calls and text messages to get details on what happened during the inspection and whether the BMC planned further action. The AMC had not yet responded when this report was published.
BMC notice stuck outside bungalow
A team of BMC officials had visited the bungalow Friday too, but as no one from the family was around, they stuck a notice outside, a copy of which has been accessed by ThePrint.
The notice issued to the occupier/ owner of the bungalow was sent under Section 488 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, 1888, and signed by the designated officer.
The notice read: “I hereby give you a notice that, I shall on the day 18/02/22 thereafter anytime pursuant to provision of the last named section enter with assistants and workmen into or upon the premises of Adhish Bungalow CTS number 997 and 997-A Mumbai 400049…in order to inspect the said premises to take measurements and photographs of the same. Please be present on the same along with last approved plans/ authentic documents of relevant structure.”
Alleged construction violations
According to Daundkar’s complaint, a copy of which is with ThePrint, CRZ norms have been violated as the clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change was for a building with four floors, instead of which eight floors were built.
Further, the norms suggest that any construction should be more than 200 metres away from the sea. It is alleged that ‘Adhish’ is located within 200 metres.
Back in 2017, Daundkar’s complaint was received by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, and was forwarded to the then municipal commissioner for further action.
“But nothing was done. I kept on sending reminders, but the pandemic hit and in between three officers changed, so the follow up kept on getting delayed,” Daundkar told ThePrint.
A war of words ensues
Meanwhile, the ongoing war of words between Rane and the Shiv Sena continues.
Over the weekend, after getting the notice, the Union minister of micro, small and medium enterprises addressed the media and attacked the Shiv Sena.
He alleged violations during the construction of Matoshree-2, a bungalow that the Thackerays are building next to Matoshree in Bandra. Rane said he had already reported the matter to authorities.
In August 2021, Rane was arrested in Maharashtra when he claimed that CM Uddhav Thackeray did not know the year of India’s independence, for which he “would have slapped” him. The Union minister was released on bail the same day.
A case has also been registered against Rane’s son, MLA Nitesh Rane, under attempt to murder charges. Nitesh was granted bail by a local court earlier this month.
After the BMC notice was served, Rane took to Twitter Friday, claiming that he “learnt that the Enforcement Directorate department’s notice is ready for four persons in Matoshree”.
Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP, told reporters that Rane should stop threatening the Shiv Sena and that even if he is a Union minister, “we are your ‘baap’”.
An old, bitter rivalry
The Rane-Shiv Sena rivalry goes back 17 years, when he first revolted against the Shiv Sena leadership in 2005. A Sena member and former chief minister, Rane rebelled when Balasaheb Thackeray chose his son, Uddhav, as his political heir. He split the Sena with about a dozen MLAs and joined the Congress.
When Rane quit the Congress in 2017, he wanted a place in Devendra Fadnavis’ BJP government in Maharashtra — but this was strongly opposed by Uddhav Thackeray, who was in alliance with the BJP between 2014-2019.
Rane formed a new party, Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha, for a brief period.
Finally, Rane merged his party with the BJP in 2019, after the Shiv Sena parted ways with the BJP following the 2019 state assembly elections.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)