CHIPI: Arch-political foe Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Union minister Narayan Rane on Saturday shared the stage and took a dig at each other at the inauguration of an airport at Chipi in Sindhudurg district.
This was probably the first time the two had come together on stage after Rane split from the Shiv Sena as well as now under Thackeray’s leadership in a scathing tone sixteen years ago.
The occasion was also the backdrop of Rane’s arrest in August this year for his remarks against the chief minister.
Rane, who hails from Sindhudurg, in his speech listed out the work done by him since he was elected MLA from this picturesque region of coastal Maharashtra for the first time in 1990.
He was given charge of the district on the instructions of the late Bal Thackeray, the founder of Shiv Sena (and Uddhav Thackeray’s father), and there was no proper road, water or education facilities in the area at that time, he said.
Rane claimed that after the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance came to power in the state in 1995, he had requested the then Chief Minister Manohar Joshi to declare Sindhudurg as a ‘tourism district’.
“After that work was done for basic amenities like roads, electricity, education, water and healthcare. The existing infrastructure is because of Narayan Rane. No one can match it,” he said.
Rane said, “People know who works. Uddhav ji, I have learned everything from Saheb (Bal Thackeray).”
The BJP leader also said that even today Chipi does not have water or electricity infrastructure and there is no proper road to the airport.
In a veiled attack on the Chief Minister, Rane said that the late Bal Thackeray did not like to lie and did not care for those who lied.
In his speech, Chief Minister Thackeray hit back saying, “Balasaheb did not like to lie. Hence, many times such (lying) people were thrown out of Shiv Sena. (Bal Thackeray used to say) even though the truth is bitter. Yes, please say it.”
Taking another dig at Rane, he said, “As per my knowledge, Sindhudurg fort (Shivaji) was built by Maharaj. Otherwise one can say ‘I built it’.”
He also said that it should be considered why it took so long for this airport to be built.
“Some people said that Konkan will be transformed into California, but why hasn’t it happened yet,” Thackeray said.
He then took a dig at Rane’s portfolio at the Centre, namely Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
“You (Rane) are a minister. So what if it is ‘micro and small’, it is still an important department and (we are sure) you will use it for the benefit of Maharashtra,” the CM said.
He said that there should also be a heliport in Chipi which can be used for tourism.
The chief minister also said that he never mixed politics and work, and when Rane called him for approval of a medical college in Sindhudurg district, he immediately approved the proposal.
After his exit from the Shiv Sena in 2005, for which he blamed Uddhav Thackeray, Rane often targeted the latter.
Soon after Rane was inducted into the Union Cabinet, Rane was arrested by the Maharashtra Police in August over his remarks against Thackeray.
The court granted him bail on the same day.
Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on the occasion that thanks to the new airport, the distance of 530 km between Mumbai and Chipi can now be covered in 50 minutes.
There are also plans to connect Chipi with Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and other major cities and 20-25 flights to Chipi will be started in the next five years, he said.
Scindia said that Maharashtra now has 14 airports.
Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray, who also holds the environment portfolio, said all efforts would be made to promote tourism in Konkan, while preserving its ecology.
Sindhudurg Airport, also known as Chipi Airport, is spread over 275 hectares.
It has a runway length of 2,500 meters, and can accommodate narrow-bodied aircraft such as the Airbus A-320 and Boeing B-737.
The airport terminal building has the capacity to handle 200 departing and 200 incoming passengers during peak hours.
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar were also present on the occasion.