Finally, Konkan strongman Narayan Rane joins BJP

While he was sent to the Rajya Sabha in March 2018 with the support of BJP, Mr. Rane had not officially entered it.

Updated - October 15, 2019 10:39 pm IST

Published - October 15, 2019 03:56 pm IST - Shoumojit Banerjee

Narayan Rane.

Narayan Rane.

Ending days of speculation, Rajya Sabha member and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane on Tuesday formally entered the ruling the BJP while merging his party, the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha (MSP), with the saffron party.

Mr. Rane, along with his elder son, former MP and Congress member Nilesh Rane, and other party workers formally joined the BJP in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at an election rally for Mr. Rane’s younger son – Nitesh Rane, who is the BJP’s candidate for the Kankavli Assembly segment in Sindhudurg district in the Konkan.

While he was sent to the Rajya Sabha in March 2018 with the support of the BJP, Mr. Rane had not officially entered it.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Rane, who was previously associated with the Shiv Sena and the Congress, said he had not joined the BJP with the intention of gaining anything.

“Many people were questioned why I am joining the BJP… My only aim is to see Sindhudurg being developed into world-class tourist destination with an end to prevailing poverty here and the creation of job opportunities. For the past few years, its progress has stagnated. A number of projects are pending. It’s essential that these projects are expeditiously completed,” said Mr. Rane. He had cast his lot with the BJP solely for the sake of development of the Konkan region, he asserted.

‘Impressed with Mr. Fadnavis’ leadership’

Heaping praise on the Fadnavis’ government, he said he had taken the decision to join the BJP after being impressed with Mr. Fadnavis’ leadership and his vision for a developed Maharashtra.

Mr. Rane’s pending entry into the BJP was long a point of discussion in political circles, with the Konkan strongman accusing the Sena of deliberately delaying his entry given the mutual antipathy between himself and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena.

Commenting on Mr. Rane’s ‘entry’, Mr. Fadnavis said the former was already a part of the BJP as the party had sent him to the Rajya Sabha.

“This joining was a process which began with Nitesh Rane entering our party. Today, Nilesh and all of Mr. Narayan Rane’s supporters have formally entered our party,” Mr. Fadnavis said. He lauded Mr. Rane’s abilities when the latter was in the Opposition, stating that the BJP had decided earlier that this entry would take place during the time of the Assembly polls.

Mr. Fadnavis assured Mr. Rane that his government would fulfil his dreams of the Konkan as a tourist destination. The wheels of development would move faster as “Mr. Rane’s engine is now joined to the BJP’s engine”.

In a lighter vein, he said that while Mr. Nitesh Rane was aggressive as an MLA, the BJP would teach him the quality of restraint.

“While we do not want to put a brake on his aggression, we will imbibe the quality of restraint into him [Nitesh Rane]…this way, he will soon match up to his father who has shown himself to be both aggressive when required and restrained when the occasion demanded,” Mr. Fadnavis said. He expressed the confidence that the junior Rane would win 65% of the votes in Kankavli the coming polls.

In September 2017, Mr. Rane severed his decade plus-long association with the Congress with the expectation that the BJP, which is weak in the Konkan belt, would welcome him with open arms. At the time of his exit, he vowed to deplete the ranks of his former parties, the Shiv Sena and the Congress.

Yet, Mr. Rane had been kept in the cold and was not accommodated in the Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet much to his chagrin.

Despite entering the Rajya Sabha with the BJP's support, his relations with the saffron party have been less than cordial.

Vitriolic attacks on Shiv Sena chief

In the interim, he has repeatedly targeted the Shiv Sena, launching vitriolic attacks on its chief . Mr. Thackeray, in turn, had warned that his party would exit the coalition if the BJP inducted Mr. Rane.

As a result, the Kankavli Assembly seat is a major flashpoint between the two saffron allies.

The Sena has openly backed Satish Sawant against Mr. Nitesh Rane. Mr. Sawant has filed his nomination as an Independent.

To hit the Sena, Mr. Narayan Rane has fielded independent candidates like his aides, Rajan Teli and Ranjit Desai, against the Sena’s nominees Deepak Kesarkar and Vaibhav Naik for the Sawantwadi and Kudal seats, respectively.

Mr. Rane, who ruled his fiefdom of Kudal in Sindhudurg district that he held for six terms as MLA, was trounced comprehensively by the Sena’s Vaibhav Naik in the 2014 Assembly elections.

The former Shiv Sainik has been carrying a chip on his shoulder since he was miffed with the Congress for not making him Chief Minister.

In 2014, Mr. Rane lost to Mr. Naik by a margin of more than 10,200 votes, in a result which ultimately led to a Sena renascence in the Konkan region. Despite Mr. Rane’s long shadow over the coastal Malwan belt, a surge of popular anger against his strong-arm tactics, coupled with sanctions to controversial ecological projects in verdant Sindhudurg, led to his undoing.

Fallouts with his former aide-turned-nemesis like Ravindra Phatak and his bête noire Deepak Kesarkar of the Sena has further undercut his hold over the region.

However, the BJP is now seeking to expand in the Konkan with the help of the Rane clan.

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