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Ranes struggle in their bastion

india Updated: Oct 11, 2014 18:21 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

Helium balloons atop buildings in Kankavali and Kudal-Malvan, stilt walkers carrying Congress flags in Sindhudurg district of Konkan, bearing images of the Rane son and father have turned out to be crowd pullers.

But is it enough? Sanjay Kelkar, a resident of Kankavali - where Nitesh Rane is contesting against BJP legislator Pramod Jathar - doesn't think so. "It isn't like before, where Rane appealed and we voted for him. Now, Shiv Sena has come back and Modi is coming here. People are unhappy and want hospitals, schools, good roads," he said.

The Sindhudurg district, which has been the Rane family's bastion for the past decade, seems to be slipping away.
The coastal district, bordering Goa, is made up of three constituencies, of which Kudal-Malvan is with the Congress, where MLA Narayan Rane is up against local Sena leader Vaibhav Naik, while Kankavali is with the BJP.

Meanwhile, Sawantwadi is with the NCP, where sitting legislator Deepak Kesarkar moved to the Sena after revolting against Rane's high-handedness in the area.

During the Lok Sabha elections, Rane's elder son was defeated by Sena MP Vinayak Raut, a new face, with a 1.5-lakh margin.

A devastated Rane pulled himself together, and has now come back to the battleground with younger son Nitesh. This is make or break for him.

"I have gone back to the people, scanned every village, made corrections. I have charted a vision for our constituencies. My fight here is against the BJP and not Sena," Nitesh told HT, after a small public meeting at Vaibhavwadi.

Shiv Sena has given a ticket to Subhash Mayekar, former NCP leader, which the local cadre is resenting.
This time the Congress has not resorted to any big rallies, which is uncharacteristic of the Ranes. They are participating in smaller galli (lane) meetings, going door to door, joining their hands and keeping bullies in their fold away.

"Nitesh is a newcomer with new ideas, but he is a Rane. He is fighting against BJP candidate Jathar who hasn't done much and won by just 34 votes in 2009. But Modi's visit might help him," said Neela Shirgaonkar, a resident from Kankavali.

Kudal-Kankavali is a divided house, where Naik, who has a huge youth following, lost against Rane in 2009 by 24,000 votes, but had a lead of 22,000 votes in the LS polls this year.

"Rane is our leader and we can't show him down in Konkan. He has done some development. But Naik is the leader of the youth and has worked hard for the past five year. He even gave us all puja material for Ganpati," said Sunil Dhuri, son of a fisherman from Malvan.

The anti-Rane army seems to be growing in the region, with many close aides joining the Sena and BJP.

Ganpat Kadam, Subhash Bane, Rajan Teli and Ravindra Phatak have all deserted him. "It doesn't matter to me. They were all using me, spoiling my name," Rane told HT.

The biggest challenge, however, will be the people from 20-odd project-affected areas across Kudal-Malavan and Kankavali, who passed a resolution to vote against Rane in the Lok Sabha. They comprise over 1.5 lakh votes.

"This time the anger has reduced and there is no common resolution. People will vote locally. But from Lok Sabha till now, no issues have been sorted by the Ranes," said Ravikiran Toraskar, who heads the Konkan Prakalp va Prashasan Grast Samanvay Samiti, which passed the resolution.