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Maharashtra ex-CM Narayan Rane launches new party, says NDA option open

Former Congress leader Narayan Rane indirectly pointed to his future allies and opponents by targeting the Shiv Sena and defending the BJP on various counts, including the bullet train project.

mumbai Updated: Oct 17, 2017 11:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Narayan Rane,Maharashtra Swabhimani Paksha,National Democratic Alliance
Former Congress leader Narayan Rane addresses the media at the launch of his new party Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha in Mumbai on Sunday. (PTI Photo)

Former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane on Sunday ended months of speculation about his next political move by launching his own political party — Maharashtra Swabhimani Paksha.

The senior leader, who quit the Congress last month, however, kept some cards about his future close to his chest. He did not directly answer if he was joining the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and gain entry into the state cabinet, where BJP is in a coalition government with Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena.

Rane, however, did indicate he was willing to join the NDA. He also claimed he had offers from all main political parties in the state after his resignation from the Congress. Rane indirectly pointed to his future allies and opponents by targeting the Sena and defending the BJP on various counts, including supporting the bullet train project.

“Let my party get set up first. Let someone from the NDA call us and then we can join them. After resigning from the Congress, I had the option of joining some other party or launching my own. I decided to start my own party, no one asked me to do it. Not just the BJP, all parties had invited me to join them,’’ the former Sena rebel told reporters in Mumbai.

“There were talks with the BJP after I quit the Congress, but clearly there were some hurdles. The Sena was not a hurdle, although I don’t know if it was for them (BJP). The chief minister allots portfolios, so question about my joining his cabinet should be asked to him (Devendra Fadnavis),” Rane said.

Rane said the MSP would not champion regional chauvinism or a particular religion or caste. “My party will work to benefit all, especially farmers, women, workers, professionals, minorities and weaker sections.’’

He also made it clear he would continue to harbour chief ministerial ambitions.

The 65-year-old Konkan leader, at the fag end of his career, faces the challenge of getting his son — Congress legislator Nitesh Rane — elected on his party symbol, getting himself elected as Member of Legislative Council, enlisting the support of sitting Sena and Congress legislators, and winning the upcoming panchayat polls in his hometown.

On the face of it, Rane’s decision seems to be advantageous for the BJP, which has, on the lines of Shankersingh Waghela in Gujarat, has successfully managed to split Opposition votes and take away a senior leader from the Congress’ already weakened state unit. In return, Rane has got nothing so far from the BJP, although sources told HT he would be taken in the NDA as an ally and was likely to get a cabinet portfolio, too.

While Rane said it was too early to talk of working out a Third Front in Maharashtra, he was willing to join similar like-minded parties in the state.

Defending the bullet train project amid opposition after the Elphinstone stampede, he said, “I will never oppose any development project. Why should we oppose a technology that would have otherwise come after 50 years? This project is not at the cost of amenities or upgradation of suburban railway network. The Japanese bank will not give a loan to support our loan waiver for farmers or for upgrading suburban railway infrastructure.”

He questioned Sena’s contribution to the state, Hindutva or for Marathi manoos. “If you want to undertake street protests, why have you joined the government? No representation in Sena comes without money, so how can he (Uddhav) talk of corruption? I know Sena will never walk out of power unless asked to leave.”

First Published: Oct 01, 2017 23:30 IST