Maharashtra’s revenue minister, Narayan Rane, may have overcome several political storms, but an attempt to murder charge against younger son, Nitesh, is likely to damage the former Sainik’s image extensively.
Nitesh (28) and five of his associates have been accused of firing bullets at Chintu Shaikh, an activist from his own outfit, Swabhimaan. Sheikh is recuperating at a local hospital and the police are looking for evidence against Nitesh but the Opposition is losing no time in gunning for Rane.
The Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have demanded that Rane quit the Cabinet. The incident could not have come at a better time for the saffron alliance. The Congress has put Rane in charge of party affairs for the Kalyan-Dombivli civic polls to be held on October 31. The polls will be an acid test for Rane because the Sena-BJP alliance has been ruling the corporation for more than two decades.
Thursday’s incident has given the Sena and BJP fodder for the poll campaign. The Sena had earlier accused the Ranes of murdering a Sainik from Sindhudurg district.
Nitesh has got away with controversies in the past but this time the Opposition has enough ammunition, state BJP president Sudhir Mungantiwar said.
It has been a rough ride for Rane since he quit the Sena in 2005 and joined the Congress. He took on the Congress high command when it denied him the post of chief minister after then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh quit in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks of November 26, 2008.
He fought with Deshmukh but then patched up. The duo has now turned its attention to common rival, incumbent CM Ashok Chavan.
Rane recently admitted in private that he had learnt to be a traditional Congressman, whose essential quality is to operate subtly against chosen targets instead of being aggressive all the time.
Nitesh, whom Rane projected as Mumbai’s youth leader after older son, Nilesh, got elected to the Lok Sabha from the Konkan, seems to have ruined his father’s sustained efforts to find his feet in the party.
Nitesh’s spokesperson claimed doctors have confirmed that a bullet did not cause Shaikh’s injury. Political sources said this finding could delay Nitesh’s arrest further.