It would be an acid test for Maharashtra Revenue minister Narayan Rane after a panicky Congress leadership told him to steer the party in the Ramtek by-poll where party rebel, Ranjit Deshmukh, is hell bent to contest as an Independent.
Rane, who air-dashed in Nagpur on Tuesday and held series of meetings with senior party functionaries to co-ordinate with the faction-ridden party leaders and its allies to chalk out a strategy for fire fighting.
Though voters are less enthusiastic for the uncalled for by-poll, the election pitch in Ramtek has started to sizzle along with the unbearable Nagpur summer in tune with the “do or die” stance of the saffron brigade, the Congress and party rebel, Deshmukh.
The by-poll could have been a cakewalk for Subodh Mohite, who quit the Sena to join the Congress Party in February last, had it been a straight fight between him and the Sena nominee, Prakash Jadhav. But with the former PCC chief Deshmukh entering the fray as a rebel, it would be tough going for Mohite in the constituency now.
Political observers feel that Ranjit would certainly pay some attention to the people but not as a winner, his candidature would work as spoiler to Mohite’s prospects. The electioneering in Ramtek Lok Sabha constituency, once represented by the late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, also took a curious turn when the former External Affairs minister, Natwar Singh reached here to campaign for party rebel Deshmukh.
Rane, who proved his metal by winning his two trusted lieutenants, Prakash Bharsakhale from Daryapur and Vijay Wadettiwar from Chimur in state by-elections from the region, is now working hard to repeat his performance.
Talking to HT, Rane asserted that Mohite would win the elections with margin over over 50,000. “The Ramtek was always a Congress citadel. However, Mohite won the elections twice from there because of his personal rapport, and not as a Sena nominee,” he claimed. The by-election of the Lok Sabha will be held on April 9 next.