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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Former Maharashtra CM Narayan Rane to merge his political outfit MSP with BJP

Rane, who quit the Congress in September 2017, was kept waiting from joining the BJP as there was stiff opposition from the Shiv Sena.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 15, 2019 05:49 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times, Kankavli (Sindhudurg)
BJP made him Rajya Sabha MP in 2018, but Rane had not merged his outfit he had formed after quitting the Congress. His son Nilesh has lost two consecutive Lok Sabha elections from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency to Sena’s Vinayak Raut.
BJP made him Rajya Sabha MP in 2018, but Rane had not merged his outfit he had formed after quitting the Congress. His son Nilesh has lost two consecutive Lok Sabha elections from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency to Sena’s Vinayak Raut.(Sonu Mehta/ Hindustan Times)
         

More than two years after former chief minister Narayan Rane floated his political outfit, Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha, he will merge it with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday. The merger will happen in the presence of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Kankavli.

Rane, who quit the Congress in September 2017, was kept waiting from joining the BJP as there was stiff opposition from the Shiv Sena. Now, he formally joins the BJP when the party is preparing for a showdown against the Sena in Konkan, which has been a stronghold of the Uddhav Thackeray-led party. The 67-year-old leader said that although there was a delay, he is optimistic about the future. Currently, Rane is busy campaigning for his son and sitting MLA Nitesh in Kankavli and supporting independent candidates against Sena in Kudal and Sawantwadi constituencies in his district — Sindhudurg.

For the Rane clan, the Assembly elections are crucial as it would determine their political future, analysts said. Rane was chief minister of Maharashtra for nine months in 1999, during the tenure of the first Sena-BJP alliance government in the state. He joined the Congress in 2005 and remained a minister in successive Congress-NCP governments. He lost the Assembly elections to the Sena in 2014. He quit the Congress two years ago amid reports that he was being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for his financial transactions. The BJP made him Rajya Sabha MP in 2018, but Rane had not merged his outfit he had formed after quitting the Congress. His son Nilesh has lost two consecutive Lok Sabha elections from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency to Sena’s Vinayak Raut. The streak of losses for Rane and his sons suggested that their clout had waned in the region. After securing a BJP ticket for Nitesh, the Ranes are campaigning extensively for him to retain the seat, and also a foothold in Sindhudurg.

The BJP, which wanted to increase its footprints in the coastal region — Sena’s stronghold — is using Rane to get a foothold in Sindhudurg district. It fielded Nitesh from Kankavli (from where he was elected on a Congress ticket in 2014), which irked the Sena. The Sena has officially fielded Satish Sawant,a a former aide of Rane, as its candidate. In retaliation, Rane has put up independent candidates in neighbouring Kudal and Sawantwadi constituencies. Local BJP workers are supporting them. Despite Sena’s objection, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will be addressing a campaign rally for Nitesh in Kankavli on Tuesday in which Rane will merge his party. Senior Sena leader Subhash Desai had appealed to Fadnavis to skip Kankavli. The Sena has now organised a rally by Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday. Both the sides are preparing for a showdown.

After his third political switch in the four-decade journey, Rane said his focus is to build BJP’s strength in Sindhudurg district and simultaneously to cut Sena to size in the Konkan region. Political observers say that for Rane, the move to BJP was the last resort to remain politically relevant in Maharashtra. “Sindhudurg is still my bastion. Now this will become a BJP bastion too. Sena will not be seen here after five years, I am working on it,” Rane said.

Political analysts also point out that Rane’s move to BJP is aimed at securing a future for his sons, Nitesh and Nilesh. “After coming to the BJP, Rane will have to lie low. He will have to give up his ambitions to get any major portfolios. The move suggests that he is trying to secure a future for his son,” said Prakash Bal, a political analyst.

With rains playing spoilsport in campaigning, Rane sat in the drawing room of his bungalow ‘Om Ganesh’ in Kankavli and waited for the showers, to stop so that they can resume canvassing in rural areas. “There was a delay, things take their time to shape up, but I am optimistic,” Rane said about his formal entry into the BJP. Rane, Nitesh, and Nilesh have divided the constituency and are campaigning hard to retain the seat against Sena’s Satish Sawant, who was a close associate of Rane for 24-years.

Rane, added that he does not consider the entry into the BJP a fresh start. “It is not a new start or anything. I have worked with the BJP during the Sena-BJP government. Most of them who were then in the cabinet are still there. All are my friends there, he said.

He is confident that Nitesh will retain the seat as he believes that Sena does not have strong cadre in Kankavli. “When I joined the Congress from Sena, everyone came with me. Now are all with me, so it is incorrect to say that Sena has a strong presence here. Whatever Sena is today [in this region] is because I built it,” he said. He added that he will carry on building the party here and carry out development work.

“Though the Kankavli seat comes in the BJP quota, we had indicated to them [BJP] that they should not give the ticket to Rane. Just by changing the party symbol, the person will not change. He (Narayan Rane) is using the BJP symbol for his gain and convenience. Sena has fought against them for years and we cannot compromise. We will win all three seats in Sindhudurg. The chief minister should have avoided campaigning for Rane,” said Subhash Desai, senior Sena leader.

“Nitesh Rane is the official candidate on the seat and the chief minister would definitely campaign for him. With regards to merger of Rane’s party, the BJP has the right to expand its party,” said Pramod Jathar, BJP’s Sindhudurg district head