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Has Rane shut all doors on himself?

mumbai Updated: Sep 26, 2017 12:16 IST
Sujata Anandan
Former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane

Former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane(HT File)

I was much amused by Narayan Rane’s rantings against Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan as he quit the party to not yet join the BJP (which seems to have left him stranded). Rane’s choices were always limited but it is rather rich of a man who lost three elections (one on behalf of his son, two of his own) from both his home turfs to describe Chavan, the singular leader who kept the Congress’s nose above water in 2014, as a man without base or support in his own constituency of Nanded.

The Congress has been doing consistently well in Chavan’s home constituency in a series of elections while Rane has been mostly losing – his own seats as well as that of others for whom he may have campaigned.

But it is quite obvious from his statements that he is angry that the party did not fulfil its promise to him when he quit the Shiv Sena and joined the Congress in 2005. Now what was this promise? We have it only from Rane –with no one else in the Congress confirming that he was told he would soon be made chief minister of Maharashtra. Mohan Prakash, the AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, has flatly stated he was not in charge when Rane joined the Congress and cannot be responsible for the promises other leaders may have made but not kept.

However, easy as it was for Rane to compel Bal Thackeray to displace Manohar Joshi and make him chief minister in 1999 in his stead, such jobs are not to be easily had in the Congress. Firstly, you have to be a winner and Rane clearly is not - a fact obvious from the time the party handed him a bulk of tickets for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections in 2007 and he lost all but two. And while even Mrs Indira Gandhi lost her own election, post-Emergency, it needs more than aggression and resources in the party for a comeback. Persuasion, a charm offensive with voters and humility in defeat are what is needed to overcome setbacks (which Mrs Gandhi had aplenty), not finger wagging at voters and hurling abuses at party leaders as Rane had done at Sonia Gandhi when he was passed over for the job of chief minister in 2008 in favour of Ashok Chavan. Yet, he was one of the few leaders who were swiftly forgiven and rehabilitated in record time - even Sharad Pawar had not been as fortunate vis-a-vis Mrs Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

And if Rane is wondering why Chavan is more important to the party than him, he only has to look at Rahul Gandhi who, despite being on top of the party hierarchy by virtue of his birth, is still not insulated against successive defeats – only, being who he is, it might take a lot longer for party men to displace him from his pre-eminent position (if he does not start winning soon).

Whatever the Congress’s faults and backroom machinations, it is a party that demands a show of humility and deference at all levels of its hierarchy (some may label it as servility) and is put off by the kind of abrasive aggression on display by Rane. Moreover, ability to fund party activities alone – unlike in the Shiv Sena – secures no Congressman anything as many party stalwarts have discovered to their detriment.

If Rane was taken in by the assurances of state leaders in 2005 that he would soon be made chief minister, I can only say he had erred in understanding the Congress culture and its instinct for political expediency. Bal Thackeray may have been a man of his word but many Congress leaders are not – Pawar being the best example of promises being made only to be broken to suit the changed circumstances.

If a dozen years in the Congress have not taught Rane anything about the party and the patience needed to reach one’s goals, he might as well seek greener pastures. But I wonder where he might go now. He wanted to be chief minister in the Congress. It is unlikely the BJP will make him one. The NCP has many potential CMs waiting in the wings for years. And the Shiv Sena’s doors are closed forever. At least with the Congress he stood a chance - eventually.