The Congress has announced the name of senior leader Narayan Rane for the by-election in the Bandra (East) constituency. Hours before the announcement, the leader met the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar seeking his support, sensing the challenge against the Shiv Sena candidate.
Rane, who was defeated from his constituency, Kudal, in the election last year, met Pawar at the latter’s residence earlier in the day. Although the NCP has a very small number in the constituency, it is expected to support Rane by not contesting the polls.
The Congress leadership in Delhi announced Rane’s candidature on Sunday. The party’s general secretary and in-charge of Maharashtra, Mohan Prakash, called up state unit chief Ashok Chavan to convey the decision. The state unit released a press statement declaring the candidature. Rane is expected to file his nomination on Tuesday, the last day. The by-election will be held on April 11. The election was announced after the death of sitting Shiv Sena MLAPrakash Sawant.
This is expected to be a high-profile contest because of various reasons. One of them being that the constituency houses Matoshree, the residence of Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, one of Rane’s strongest opponents. The other is Rane, who is known for his networking skills and is likely to neutralise forces – the NCP, MNS as well as All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) – who have the potential to upset his apple cart.
The Sena, meanwhile, is gearing up to retain the seat and has fielded Trupti Sawant, Prakash Sawant’s widow. Sawant had enjoyed a great rapport with the people of his constituency. His wife is looking to cash in on the sympathy factor.
Political analysts say the entry of Rane has made things difficult for the Sena. “It was actually a cakewalk for the Sena until Rane got into the fray,” said Prakash Bal, eminent political commentator. He warns that though the BJP has decided not to contest, it may not support the Sena wholeheartedly. “Though not openly, the BJP may indirectly help Rane, putting the Sena on the mat,” he said.