Will senior Congress leader and former chief minister Narayan Rane join the BJP or stay with the Congress? Speculations were rife on Tuesday as Rane was in New Delhi and one of the BJP ministers in the state said any decision on him would be taken by the top BJP leadership. Rane’s younger son and Congress legislator Nitesh Rane, however,denied this and insisted his father was very much in the Congress party.
“He [Narayan Rane] had gone to Delhi for personal work. We are not even thinking of quitting the party. In fact, our aim is to lead the party to victory in the 2019 Assembly election like the triumph in Punjab in the recent polls. It is a deliberate attempt by a few to create an air of ambiguity around the Rane family,” Nitesh said on Tuesday. Rane reached Delhi late on Monday evening and there was speculation he would meet senior BJP leaders on Tuesday.
For the past few days, Rane has been publicly criticising the state Congress leadership following the party’s defeat in the municipal and district council polls in Maharashtra. His elder son and former MP Nilesh resigned from party posts and is running a campaign for the removal of Ashok Chavan as state Congress chief. Significantly, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya has been demanding an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate into Rane’s financial transactions.
Rane’s aides in his hometown Sindhudurg have confirmed their leader was unhappy in the Congress and is exploring the option of joining the BJP or returning to the Shiv Sena, the party he left 12 years ago. Sources in the Sena, however, said party chief Uddhav Thackeray is not keen to take Rane back. The Sena has rebuilt the party organisation in Konkan after Rane quit and did well in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Rane lost the Assembly election, while his son lost his parliamentary seat to Sena candidate Vinayak Raut.
Although most of the state BJP leaders were in two minds over the induction of Rane and his sons Nilesh and Nitesh, party leadership felt it could help them grow in the Sindhudurg district of Konkan. A section of the party also believes that a chunk of Congress legislators may also join the fold if Rane is given key responsibility.
Senior BJP leader and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil did not deny when asked if Rane was in touch with BJP. He said on Monday Rane was a leader that every party wanted to have in their fold. On Tuesday, another BJP minister Ravindra Chavan said the party’s leadership would decide on Rane if he wanted to join the BJP.
Sources from the Congress, however, said Rane was unlikely to part ways with the party and the reports of him quitting the party were just pressure tactics by the leader. “He is eyeing the post of state Congress president and believes that he can win sizeable seats for the party in the 2019 Assembly elections,” a senior party leader said.
Nitesh said the Congress high command is in touch with his father. “We were expecting introspection of the recent defeat by the state leadership. We keep talking in the interest of the party. We believe the party leadership will take due cognisance of the concerns expressed by us,” he said.
Last week, Rane himself refuted reports he was quitting the Congress and blamed leaders from the party for the rumours. He said he did meet chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on three occasions, but the meetings were for the official work as a legislator.
Rane was Shiv Sena chief minister in 1999 and later opposition leader in assembly. He quit the Sena in 2005 accusing Sena chief late Bal Thackeray and his son Uddhav of sidelining him. He had even publicly criticised Congress’ top leadership in 2008 when he was ignored for the post of chief minister following the resignation of Vilasrao Deshmukh after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. After he joined the Congress in 2005, Rane was a minister in successive Congress-led governments till 2014 when the party was voted out of power. Rane lost the Assembly election and was later rehabilitated by the Congress by making him a member of the Legislative Council.
Meanwhile , Narayan Rane is back in Mumbai and will attend the legislative council on Wednesday.