'Kombdi Chor', 'Nagobacha Pillu' to 'Ghar Kombda', Uddhav-Narayan Rane War Dates Back to Bal Thackeray's Era

‘Kombdi Chor’, ‘Nagobacha Pillu’ to ‘Ghar Kombda’, Uddhav-Narayan Rane War Dates Back to Bal Thackeray’s Era

For those keenly watching Maharashtra’s political circles, the Narayan Rane VS Uddhav Thackeray battle was in the making since the time Bal Thackeray’s “polite and shy” son grew out of his shadow to lead the Shiv Sena from the front, eclipsing veteran Rane’s dreams.

Rane’s disenchantment with the Shiv Sena coincided with the rising influence of Uddhav Thackeray, who until then was known more for his backroom management skills.

Journalist and political commentator Hemant Desai, in a conversation with The Print, says Rane found it difficult to accept Uddhav’s leadership and ultimately broke ties with the Sena. However, since then, he and his sons have not abstained from taking personal digs at the Maharashtra chief minister and his family. Desai added that the fight today is more Uddhav versus Rane, than Shiv Sena versus BJP”.

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The genesis

Before entering politics, Rane was known to be part of the ‘Harya Narya gang’ in the 1960s, a street gang operating in the northeastern suburb of Chembur, where he lived. In the 1970s, he joined the Shiv Sena and became a shakha pramukh, which was followed by his election as Sena corporator in the 1980s.

In the 1990s, Rane emerged as one of Shiv Sena’s most powerful leaders— he moved from MLA to minister to ultimately the chief minister of the Shiv Sena-BJP government for a brief period between February and October 1999.

However, he quit the Shiv Sena in 2005 and joined the Congress. The Grand Old Party too didn’t appeal to Rane who resigned in 2017 to form his own party, the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha, which he ultimately merged with the BJP.

How the rivalry turned personal

In the 1999 state elections, Uddhav decided to drop 15 names from an already finalised list of candidates, much to Rane’s chagrin. Even as he protested, the list was not altered but the candidates fought as Independents and 12 of them won, proving Rane right.

In 2003, when the Shiv Sena passed a resolution to appoint Uddhav as the executive president, Rane reportedly met Bal Thackeray to voice his concern. Upset at being denied a fair hearing, he decided to quit in 2005, telling Uddhav in a letter that “Shiv Sainiks do not get love, affection, and trust from you as they used to get from Saheb”.

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A day later, Bal Thackeray expelled Rane, who was the leader of the opposition in the assembly at the time, from the party for “betrayal”. This prompted a response from Rane who launched a tirade against Uddhav, his personal assistant Milind Narvekar, and Shiv Sena leaders such as Subhash Desai.

As Rane left in a huff, Shiv Sena leaders had a field day criticising him with nicknames that Bal Thackeray himself had popularised such as “nagobacha pillu” (a snake’s child) and “kombdi chor (chicken thief), a dig at the poultry shop that Rane ran near the Chembur station in Mumbai about five decades ago, during his early years in politics.

Not one to be left behind, the Rane family hit out at Uddhav’s son and state cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray, calling him “baby penguin”. Rane’s MLA son Nitesh in a tweet termed CM Thackeray “ghar kombda“, a phrase used for someone who sits at home, implying that Thackeray preferred “working from home” to being out on the field.

Clearly, the “slap” threat and subsequent action against Rane shows this old rivalry will not see an end anytime soon.

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