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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

How one seat has emerged as a sticking point in BJP-Sena ties

The tension between the ruling allies is likely to intensify further as both parties are organising campaign rallies, with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray set to campaign for their respective candidates in Kankavli.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 13, 2019 09:48 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times, Kankavli (Sindhudurg)
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, party leader Aaditya Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, party leader Aaditya Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. (PTI File Photo )
         

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena are contesting the Maharashtra Assembly polls as allies, but there is friction between the parties over the Kankavli seat in Sindhudurg, where the former has fielded Narayan Rane’s son, Nitesh, who had won on a Congress ticket in 2014.

Former chief minister Narayan Rane has been the Sena’s bête noire ever since he left the party on a bitter note in 2005 to join the Congress. He later quit the Congress and formed his own party, Maharashtra Swabhimaan Paksh, which is set to be merged with BJP.

As retaliation to BJP’s move, Sena has fielded Satish Sawant against Nitesh Rane for the Kankavli Assembly seat. Sawant had earlier filed his nomination as an independent.

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Meanwhile, to counter Sena, Narayan Rane has fielded independent candidates Rajan Teli and Ranjit Desai opposite Sena nominees Deepak Kesarkar and Vaibhav Naik for the Sawantwadi and Kudal seats, respectively.

The tension between the ruling allies is likely to intensify further as both parties are organising campaign rallies, with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray set to campaign for their respective candidates in Kankavli.

Fadnavis is scheduled to campaign for Nitesh Rane in Kankavli on October 15. At the same rally, Narayan Rane will merge Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha with the BJP.

“Rane’s entry into the party is to expand the footprint of the BJP here. Our target is 2024 elections,” said BJP’s Sindhudurg district head Pramod Jathar.

A miffed Sena has resorted to veiled threats over the situation in Kankavli. “We cannot stop the CM from campaigning… We expected them [BJP] to not give a ticket to Nitesh Rane. Similarly, we also expect the CM to not campaign for him [Nitesh]. He is a smart, learned person and knows what he is doing and how it impacts the alliance,” said Vinayak Raut, Sena’s MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg.

For Nitesh Rane, a victory is a way to send a message to Uddhav Thackeray that his family cannot be ignored in the region.

“We [Ranes] want to send a clear signal to the BJP chief [Amit Shah] that just like the party is strong in Vidarbha and urban centres, we will achieve the same in the entire Konkan belt… The intention is to increase the base here. They [Thackerays and Shiv Sena] cannot ignore us in the Konkan anymore,” Nitesh said.

The Sena, meanwhile, feels the battle in Kankavli is the party and Rane. “The voters here are upset with Rane; he has not done anything for them. This is not a BJP versus Sena, but Sena versus Rane fight. We will prevail in this,” said Sena’s candidate Satish Sawant.

According to Sena functionaries from Sindhudurg, it is a “prestige issue for the party” to win the three seats. “We are confident that with a strong cadre, we will win. In the last stretch of campaigning, Uddhavji will also hold rallies in Kankavli, Kudal and Sawantwadi on October 16,” said a senior party functionary, who did not want to be named.

Political analyst Prakash Bal said that despite the Sena having very little say in the alliance, Uddhav cannot accept Rane or his son’s candidature, as Narayan Rane was a rebel, and thus the tussle was bound to happen. “The BJP is viewing Rane as an entry point into Sindhudurg. As a party, they were unable to have a base here, as the region has always been a Sena bastion,” Bal said.

The rivalry between Sena and Rane dates back to 2005, when Rane quit Sena to join the Congress along with his supporter MLAs. It caused a setback to the Sena in Konkan region, which was party’s bastion. Rane quit the party after targeting Uddhav Thackeray, who was at the time taking over the reins of the party from his father.