The former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Congress Strongman from Konkan Narayan Rane is finally out of the Congress, where he was never comfortable ever since he jumped into it in 2005. By the time I am writing this article, it is yet not sure, where will he join? Will he enter in to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? or will he knock the door of the Shiv Sena, his earlier home? or will be launch his own outfit and take on the Congress, the BJP and the Sena at a same time? Going by Rane’s nature, frame of mind and his political history, he is capable of doing anything.
Konkan politician Rane announced his resignation from the Congress on the first day of Navratri, the holy nine-day festival, when goddesses are worshipped with great devotion and enthusiasm. He also announced that he would announce his next step before the Dussehra festival, i.e. before 30th of September. Therefore, there is a lot of curiosity and suspense about his next move. Hurt in the Congress, surely Rane’s first objective would be to take on the Congress particularly it’s Maharashtra Party Chief Ashok Chavan. Will he be able to pose a serious threat to the oldest party of the nation? That is the million-dollar question.
Never ‘at home’
Rane deserted the Sena along with his army of followers from Konkan and Mumbai region in 2005 and joined the Congress under the leadership of the then Chief Minister late Vilasrao Deshmukh. However, he never found himself ‘at home’ in the new house perhaps because of different political philosophy and style of functioning and also his over-riding ambitions. Rane repeatedly made it public that he was promised the post of Chief Minister within six months by none else but the Party Chief Sonia Gandhi. To his dismay, Rane was never taken seriously by the bosses of his new party. Many Congress Chief Ministers came in and went out but Rane was never elevated. He wanted to take the chair of the Chief Minister that he had lost after his party had lost the 1999 State Assembly election. Rane was the sitting Chief
Minister of Maharashtra when the Sena-BJP Alliance lost the Assembly elections. Rane was reduced to Leader of Opposition. Rane continued his effort to overturn the Congress-NCP Alliance Government led by Deshmukh. Rane announced the Grand Shows of political ‘Chamatkar’ (miracle) at least on three occasions but fell flat on his face on every occasion. Thus he and his so called ‘Chamatkar’ became a matter of joke. Came in the next 2004 Assembly Elections and Congress-NCP Alliance repeated its performance.
The Sena-BJP remained ‘out of power’ once again. With this, Rane also lost his sway and clout in the Shiv Sena.
Feeling humiliated and insulted by the continuos remarks by media and also his own leaders, Rane developed a bridge with Deshmukh and jumped out of the Sena Ship to take oath as a cabinet minister in 2005. Since then he was waiting to be invited by the party high command to take the rein of the state party in his hand but in vain. Rane feels that when Ashok Chavan was made the Chief Minister in 2008, actually the party MLAs had voted for him but their claim was neglected by the party high command. He tried again when Chavan had to step down amidst the Adarsh Controversy. But Sonia Gandhi put her weight in favour of Pritviraj Chavan and Rane’s dream shattered again.
Since then Rane has been openly expressing his displeasure about Congress’s style of functioning in open. in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Rane’s son Nilesh lost the Sindhudurg seat to Sena’s Vinayak Raut. Within four months, he received another rude shock, when he himself lost his Assembly seat. He tried again when the bye-election for Bandra (East) was held. Here also Rane lost heavily. That was the end of the road for Rane in Congress. His departure from the party was seen as eminent and that finally happened last week.
Rane for Konkan
The question is whether and why would the BJP accept Rane’s prayer to allow him to join the party? At present, the BJP has no able leadership in Konkan Region and thus the decks are clear for the Sena to expand there. If the BJP has an ambition to have its sway over all regions of Maharashtra, Rane’s presence in the party would come handy, particularly when the next Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are round the corner. But if Rane has to be admitted, the BJP would have to provide him berth and a coveted portfolio in the state government.
That department could be Revenue, presently held by a BJP strongman Chandrakant Patil. Would the BJP like to destabilise and humiliate its loyal leader like Chandrakant Dada to accommodate Rane? And what is the guarantee that Rane within six months would not start demanding his elevation to the position of Chief Minister? Would Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who is sitting pretty in the saddle like to take such a risk? The Sena which is at a loggerhead with the BJP has been trying to ensure that Rane is not admitted in the ruling alliance.
The reason is if Rane grabs the coveted Revenue portfolio, it would be difficult for the Sena to work at district level as all collectors come under the revenue minister. Though Fadnavis not eager to work with the Sena ministers any more, he would not like to antagonize the Sena to benefit Rane. In this situation, Rane is finding himself struck between a Devil and a Deep Sea. His political future depends on how and when he would be able to find his way out of this rut. Sooner it happens better it is for him and his two sons.
The author is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament