Coming soon: Narayan Rane versus Uddhav Thackeray, part II
Twelve years after he quit the Shiv Sena to join the Congress, former chief minister Narayan Rane is all set to start a new political inning now.
As expected, Rane quit the Congress last week. There are chances that he will join the BJP alongwith his two sons and followers. Though the BJP is mum on him, Rane has been negotiating his entry into the party. Will he join the state cabinet or be sent to Rajya Sabha as a parliamentarian? Will his both sons and prominent followers be rehabilitated in the BJP? These questions will be answered if the BJP leadership gives a green signal to his induction into the party.
While Rane is clear on what he wants from his future political moves, the Maharashtra BJP seems to be divided over his entry. It seems Chief Minister Fadnavis camp is not keen to let Rane join his cabinet. The camp led by union transport minister Nitin Gadkari wants him on board and to be part of Fadnavis government. On the other hand, the central leadership of the party looks at Rane as someone to tackle the Shiv Sena and snatch the party’s stronghold of Konkan. In 2014 assembly elections, the Shiv Sena won 7 seats in three districts of Konkan (Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg) while the BJP could win only one—Panvel. Besides, the BJP top brass is angry with Sena leadership for its continuous tirade against the party. At times, Sena’s criticism of the Modi government at the Centre is bitter than that of the Opposition parties. If Rane joins the BJP, his brief is likely to be clear: Counter the Sena in the language it understands.
If that happens, it will be the second time Maharashtra will witness Rane versus Uddhav Thackeray fight.
In 2005 as Sena founder late Bal Thackeray made it clear that his son Uddhav would be calling the shots in the party, Rane was the first Shiv Sena leader to publicly raise question over Uddhav’s ability to lead the party. He led a revolt within its ranks and walked out with 11 MLAs of the party. Then, he was irked that the Sena leadership had planned to make Uddhav Thackeray chief minister and not him had the party won 2004 assembly elections. Rane believed he could fulfill his ambition in Congress. With his exit, the Sena suffered a setback. Following Rane, Raj Thackeray too quit the party and there was a question mark over Sena’ survival. The party failed to win the assembly elections in 2009.
Rane joined the Congress in 2005 and remained a minister till the party lost power in 2014. He was, however, not made the chief minister by the party. Now, he has quit the Congress and is willing to take on the Sena and Uddhav Thackeray.
But things have changed in these 12 years.
Questions are being raised over his political strength. As of now his camp has two—his son Nitesh and close confidant Kalidas Kolambkar. If he has support of any other legislators, they have not made their stand public yet. On the other hand, Uddhav Thackeray today is a different politician as compared to 2005. Three years ago, he got 63 MLAs elected on his own—even contesting against the BJP at the height of Modi wave. When Congress-NCP stalwarts are keeping quiet, he has been targeting PM Modi and the BJP. Further, the Sena workers or sainiks have a history of bouncing back when they are pushed to the wall---be it was split by Chhagan Bhujbal in 1991 or Rane and Raj in 2005. Taking on the Sena won’t be as easy as it was in the past. How Rane---a veteran of many political battles—manages this remains to be seen.