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A tale of three former Shiv Sena leaders

Two other high-profile former Shiv Sena leaders, who defected to other parties, are also being talked about.

mumbai Updated: Apr 11, 2017 13:54 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Rane is unhappy in the Congress.
Rane is unhappy in the Congress.(HT file)

On Monday, Congress leader Narayan Rane celebrated his 65th birthday. Rane, who was chief minister when the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government was in power in Maharashtra, is unhappy in the Congress. There are speculations that he may join the BJP or return to the Shiv Sena.

It is not just Rane; two other high-profile former Shiv Sena leaders, who defected to other parties, are also being talked about. First is Chhagan Bhujbal, who is now behind bars for a year in money laundering case. Second is Navi Mumbai strongman Ganesh Naik, who may quit the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Call it a coincidence, but all three former Sena rebels are in trouble or unhappy with their current situation. Significantly, all three of them came from modest backgrounds, started as grassroot workers, and climbed up the ladder. All three of them were ambitious and wanted to be chief minister.

While the two could not realise their dream, Rane went on to become chief minister in 1999. From his first post in Shiv Sena as shakha pramukh in Chembur becoming to chief minister, Rane’s rise was phenomenal, especially considering the kind of background he came from. The Sena-BJP, however, lost power in 1999 and Rane became an opposition leader in the assembly. He even made an unsuccessful bid to pull down Congress-NCP government. Post-2004 assembly elections, when the saffron combine lost again, differences emerged between Rane and Uddhav Thackeray, who had by then started taking over the reins of the party. It led to Rane walking out of the Sena with a bunch of legislators, and joining the Congress. Rane’s close aides say that he was promised chief ministership in the Congress, but had to remain content with a ministerial position. Even now, he is expecting the party leadership to give him charge of the party in Maharashtra in the run-up to the 2019 elections. He has already given indications that he will explore his options in the BJP or even consider returning to the Sena if the Congress leadership doesn’t listen to him. He will prefer the Sena since the party is strong in coastal Konkan, which is his area of influence, but Uddhav Thackeray may not be keen to take him back. On the other hand, the BJP would be happy to get him on board to counter Sena in Konkan.

Chhagan Bhujbal came from a family of vegetable vendors. A fiery orator and a good organiser, he became Mayor of Mumbai and later Sena legislator from Byculla. As the Sena emerged as the main opposition party in the 1990 assembly elections, senior Thackeray chose Manohar Joshi for the post of Opposition leader in the assembly, which angered Bhujbal. He built bridges with then Congress chief minister Sharad Pawar, who scripted his defection with a bunch of Sena MLAs. Since then, Bhubjal remained a trusted aide of Pawar. He quit the Congress when Pawar formed the NCP. Pawar made him deputy chief minister as the Congress-NCP formed their first alliance government in 1999. He had to later resign following the Telgi scam, but he bounced back. He was made deputy chief minister again in 2009. With the emergence of Ajit Pawar, he was demoted as a minister. It was during his tenure as public works minister, Bhujbal got embroiled in a series of allegations which has now led to him being lodged behind the bars. As of now, things are not looking good for him.

For more than two decades, Ganesh Naik has been dominating the politics of Navi Mumbai. He was made a Shiv Sena group leader in the Assembly after Bhujbal defected to the Congress. A resourceful and influential leader, Naik was seen as a chief ministerial contender in the run up to 1995 elections. Naik aides allege that then chief minister Joshi ensured that Naik’s wings were clipped. Even though he was made a minister, Naik was given less influential departments. Still, he called the shots in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. In 1998, he had differences with the Sena chief. He floated his separate outfit and contested the 1999 assembly polls but lost. He then joined the NCP and returned to state cabinet as a minster post 2004 elections. He remained a minister till 2014 and also retained his hold over Navi Mumbai civic body. However, things seem to be changing now. His close aides say he doesn’t see any future with the NCP, and is exploring possibilities of joining the BJP or returning to the Sena.

What would have happened to their careers if they would have remained with the Sena? But then, politics is an unpredictable game.