Narayan Rane quits Congress, leaves all political parties in a fix

Hindustan Times | By
Sep 21, 2017 05:40 PM IST

Rane made the announcement at a meeting of his followers at Kudal in Sindhudurg district of coastal Konkan area.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane on Thursday announced that he was quitting the Congress party.

Rane made the announcement at a meeting of his followers at Kudal in Sindhudurg district of coastal Konkan area.

While Rane no longer enjoys the political clout he had 12 years ago when he rebelled against the Shiv Sena to join the Congress, his second political gamble will still have repercussions for all the main political parties in the state.

For starters, the rumblings of discontent over Rane joining the BJP are already being felt within the Shiv Sena, which will now face a direct challenge in its stronghold of Konkan.

A part of Sena’s posturing, including the threat to leave the government, was to register unhappiness over the former rebel’s entry in the BJP. This may turn the already uneasy relations between the allies more bitter as the BJP would expect Rane to return Sena’s friendly fire in the same language. Anticipating that, the Sena is likely to put more pressure on the BJP to keep Rane out of the state cabinet, as the former chief minister is keen to be a minister again.

Rane, who quit the Shiv Sena in 2005, was unhappy in the Congress and is negotiating with the BJP for his entry to the party.

Within the BJP, there is a split over getting Rane into the fold and the role he will play in the party. State party leadership is not keen on granting Rane a cabinet portfolio and would prefer to send him to Delhi on a Rajya Sabha seat. In the current cabinet, he could tower over and directly take on Fadnavis, given his seniority and functioning style and prove to be a nuisance for the chief minister.

The advantages of getting him in the fold are clear — he can provide a ready base for the BJP in Konkan, where it has no presence. He can also help the party to win at least one Lok Sabha and at least a couple of assembly seats in 2019.

The senior leader, known for his aggressive style, will also help keep Sena’s acerbic criticism in check.

“At the end of the day, he was a former chief minister and brings in both political and administrative experience. Electorally, there is no denying he will help the party. For us, every seat counts in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, so getting Rane in the fold is a part of the larger design. But, his induction will be on our terms and not his,” said a BJP minister, explaining why the party would not open its cards unless Rane made his position clear.

Along with the saffron allies, Rane’s ouster will impact the Congress. The party has lost not just its base in the Konkan, but in the short run, its numbers will dwindle in the state assembly. It has lost the leader of the Opposition chair to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and conceded upper hand to its former ally in both the Lower and the Upper House of the state legislature.

Rane began his political career as a shakha pramukh (local ward chief) in the Sena and rose up the ranks to become chief minister of the Shiv Sena-BJP government in 1999. He quit the party in 2005 following the emergence of Uddhav Thackeray as the political heir of Sena founder late Bal Thackeray.

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