Mumbai: As news about Eknath Shinde’s rebellion against the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena spread across Maharashtra in June, with his face on all major TV news channels, life changed for a local functionary of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in a small Pune neighbourhood.
Vijay Mane, 37, bespectacled, with a thick beard and a red teeka on his forehead, became famous overnight as the man who was the spitting image of Shinde, and more so after Shinde took oath as Maharashtra chief minister on 30 June. People would stop him on the streets asking for his photograph, and crowd outside his house.
However, the limelight that he once enjoyed has now come to haunt Mane, who is the general secretary of BJYM’s Haveli taluka unit in Pune district. The Pune Police Monday registered an FIR against him for allegedly getting his picture clicked with a gangster and sharing it widely on social media, hurting the image of CM Shinde.
Mane was reportedly booked under sections 419 (cheating by personation), 469 (forgery), 500 (defamation), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology (IT) Act.
A police officer from the Pune’s Bundgarden police station, where the FIR has been registered, told ThePrint on condition of anonymity: “The Pune Crime Branch is investigating the case. The allegation is mainly that he maligned the CM’s image by posing next to someone known to be a gangster.”
Mane has refuted the allegation. “I had gone for a programme in Ahmednagar district. Everyone thought that the CM had arrived and moved aside to make way. I went inside the local police station and sat there for casual conversation. There was a huge crowd there and I didn’t know who was next to me. Someone must have clicked a picture and made it viral,” he told ThePrint.
“The police are saying that I clicked the picture and made it viral on social media,” he added.
Mane, who works as a local sub-contractor for builders and construction companies, said he’s had a beard for the last 7-8 years, is used to sporting a teeka every day, and started wearing spectacles when he was in school.
“I have been preparing to contest the Pune municipal corporation election, so I have also been wearing white clothes, which is the hallmark of any politician. This made me look all the more like the CM,” Mane said, adding that many people have given him letters and representations to get their work done, mistaking him for Shinde.
While he was noticed locally, he first shot to fame as Shinde’s lookalike when he attended a programme in Pune’s Swargate area on the occasion of the birth anniversary of author and social reformer Annabhau Sathe on 1 August.
“The news media present there made me famous. I also met the CM Shinde saheb on three or four occasions after that. His PA also clicked a picture with me because I look so much like saheb,” Mane told ThePrint.
“After that, people started calling me for their private functions, [and] Ganesh aartis. The attention was good as I thought I could get more social work done, and because I have also been preparing for elections,” he added.
‘I resemble Shinde, but there are more like me’
Mane, an engineer with an MBA degree, didn’t question the attention until last month, when a video of a Shinde lookalike dancing on the streets went viral on social media. Mane insists that the person dancing in the video is not him.
“I eventually found out that there are more duplicates of Shinde saheb. There is one in Sangli, one in Pandharpur. But I’m probably the most famous of them, so everyone assumed it was me,” he said, adding: “I also assured Shinde saheb when I met him that it wasn’t me.”
Since then, Mane said, he has deliberately been making attempts to resemble Shinde a little less — he has altered the shape of his beard and wears more colourful clothes, a far cry from the quintessential politician’s white safari suit attire.
“But people still say I look like Shinde saheb. I have also consulted lawyers, but they advise me not to change a thing about myself. I have the freedom to be how I like and wear what I like,” he added.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)