Sindhudurg: In his home turf of Sindhudurg, senior Congress leader Narayan Rane has already being referred to as the ‘future chief minister of Maharashtra’ at all Congress functions.
The leader, who was reluctant to fight the elections this time after his elder son Nilesh’s colossal defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, has not only reentered the battlefield in his own constituency of Kudal, but he is also shouldering the responsibility of his younger son Nitesh’s neighbouring Kankavli constituency.
With the Assembly elections just a week away, Rane minces no words when he admits to being the top contender for chief minister in case the Congress comes back to power.
He also takes a jibe at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying they are being forced to send PM Narendra Modi to campaign in Konkan only to fight a heavyweight like him.
The Congress ads seem to portray CM Prithviraj Chavan as the chief ministerial candidate. But here in Sindhudurg people seem to be referring to you as the next CM?
The Congress ads that you see on television have former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan talking about his work. I am in-charge of the election committee in Maharashtra and I can tell you that the party is not portraying him as the next CM candidate. Considering my experience and hold over state issues, I am the top contender for the post. Now it is up to the high command to give it a go-ahead in case we win.
You were reluctant to contest the Assembly polls. Now both you and Nitesh are in the fray in your home turf?
I was not going to fight these elections after Nilesh’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. I felt betrayed by locals for whom I have been working for the past 25 years. I kept questioning why my people turned their back on my son. I am now contesting on the high command’s insistence and am giving my people in Sindhudurg another chance. My other son Nitesh is also contesting. He is an educated young man who has a vision for his constituency and I am hoping my people stand by him too.
Did you assess what went wrong in the Lok Sabha elections? People here say there were goons accompanying your son everywhere, flaunting guns and money, which scared them...
I am not aware of any such incidents. But if you are mentioning it, then it might be possible that some miscreants tried to spoil our image. We have thrown away many such bad eggs out of the party. If you see Nitesh, you will realise he is a spitting image of me and has an entire vision charted out for his constituency.
I would attribute our defeat in the Lok Sabha elections entirely to the Modi wave and nothing else. The 1.5 lakh new voters, who are primarily young voters, got swayed by the man. Today, they know Modi has not been able to solve any issue. The people of Konkan are facing the heat of price rise and no new jobs have been created.
Are you feeling the pressure of the Modi rally that will take place in Sindhudurg on Sunday? There is huge enthusiasm about it...
Modi is an actor and people want to see him only for entertainment. It is a pity that the BJP has to send the PM of India to campaign against a heavyweight like me. This shows it is the BJP that is under massive pressure to get the seats that are presently with them. I am not worried one bit. Nitesh will win in Kankavli and the incumbent legislator Pramod Jathar will be shown the door.
Nitesh has been talking of the Gujarati-Marathi divide in these elections. What is your take?
The Marathi-Gujarati divide in Maharashtra does exist. A few days ago, Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel came to Mumbai and asked industrialists to invest in Gujarat and not Mumbai. In 1960, Morarji Desai tried to take Mumbai away to Gujarat. PM Narendra Modi is the new Morarji. He will take Mumbai away, even if he publicly denies it.
Is the Shiv Sena your main enemy in Maharashtra and the Konkan?
The main fight in the state is between the Congress and the BJP. Uddhav has no original issues to talk about, and he has made no contribution to the state or Konkan’s development story. I have initiated the sea world project, Chipi airport and jetties. Even now in the elections, he has stolen all my issues. Currently, he has only been criticising the BJP and crying about the alliance split.
So you are confident of winning and not facing a fate similar to the one you faced in the Lok Sabha elections?
Till both the alliances were together, things looked uncertain. This was not because of the saffron wave, but more because of non-cooperation at the local level from the NCP. We have thrown several rotten eggs out of the Congress at the local level as well, and now it is smooth sailing.