Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Union Minister Narayan Rane shared a stage on Saturday as they inaugurated an airport in Sindhudurg district.
It should have been a routine public event but for one problem – in August Mr Thackeray’s government arrested Mr Rane (a former Shiv Sena leader) for comments criticising the Chief Minister’s “ignorance of the year India won Independence”.
The swipes and jabs started with Mr Rane, who is from Sindhudurg, took the opportunity to highlight his contributions after being elected as its MLA for the first time in 1990.
He said that it was under directions from the late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray he was deputed to Sindhudurg, and that it was due to his efforts the Konkan region received an infrastructure boost.
Stung, Uddhav Thackeray (Bal Thackeray’s son), reminded Mr Rane: “Balasaheb Thackeray did not like lying… several times such people were kicked out of the Shiv Sena. He (Bal Thackeray) would say, ‘Even if the truth is bitter, please say it.”
Mr Thackeray offered up a second sarcastic swipe for good measure; he referred to the iconic Sindhudurg fort and reminded people it had been built Shivaji.
“… or someone will say I did it,” he quipped, according to news agency PTI.
The Chief Minister wasn’t quite done either.
“You (Mr Rane) are a minister… so what it if it (Mr Rane’s post) is ‘micro and small’. It is an important portfolio, and you can use it to benefit Maharashtra,” he said.
Narayan Rane, currently out on bail on medical grounds, is the union minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Mr Rane’s comment and arrest – the first time in 20 years a union minister was taken into custody – triggered (yet another) spat between former allies Shiv Sena and the BJP.
The former has accused the latter of supporting insults against Maharashtra, and Mr Rane has returned the compliment by claiming his former party was encouraging his critics.
Mr Rane’s comment also came shortly before elections to Mumbai’s civic body, the BMC, and the Sena promptly claimed he was trying to provoke voters.
The high-stakes, high-prestige election is scheduled for February and has already ratcheted up the political tension in the state.
With input from PTI