Mumbai: The Bandra East Assembly by-poll is likely to be a make-or-break election for senior Congress leader Narayan Rane, according to political observers. Rane, who suffered a shock defeat at his home town Kudal in Sindhudurg district during Maharashtra Assembly polls last year, losing to his bete noire Vaibhav Naik of Shiv Sena by nearly 10,000 votes, is hoping to revive his decimated political career through the Bandra East Assembly bypoll. mPolitical observers are keeping a keen watch on whether the 62-year-old leader, who was contemplating quitting the Congress after the Lok Sabha elections last year, can come out of his “political hibernation”.
Rane is pitted against Trupti Sawant, widow of sitting Shiv Sena MLA Bala Sawant, whose death necessitated the bypoll scheduled to be held on April 11. The contest has attained a high profile tone as the constituency houses the residence of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, against whom Rane had launched a tirade before being forced to quit the party (Sena). All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator from Byculla, Waris Pathan told PTI that his party candidate Rehbar Khan, who polled about 24,000 votes in the Assembly poll last year, would better his vote share in the upcoming by-election.
“Our fight is against the Sena and not Congress. We will get support from non-Muslim voters as well. After seeing our performance in the Legislative Assembly in the last five months, people are confident that we are their voice in the Legislature,” he said. Pathan said the Bill banning cow slaughter was passed by the Sena-BJP government when Narayan Rane was the chief minister. Similarly, he opposed implementation of the Srikrishna Commission report which probed the 1992-93 riots.
“Muslims will never support him,” he said. Experts say that MIM may emerge as a deciding factor in the election. Sena MLC Anil Parab said his party cadre is putting in all efforts to defeat Rane. “All of us want Rane’s political career to end in this bypoll, as the constituency is home of late Balasaheb Thackeray. BJP and RPI are supporting our candidate. Bala Sawant was a two-time MLA and thrice corporator from the area. The common man could identify with him,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rane said MIM cannot claim to espouse the Muslim cause. “What did it do when the Muslim reservation was scrapped by the BJP government?” he asked. Rane also targeted Sena for contesting the election on emotional appeal. “Such emotional appeals and sympathy do not solve people’s issues,” he said referring to Bala Sawant’s widow Trupti, who is the candidate in fray. Rane also said his focus has always been development and he would stick to it.