Narayan Rane's political clout in Konkan will boost BJP, but can the party risk his tantrums?

Former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane, who has been unable to secure any assurances from the BJP regarding a position in the saffron party, has decided to float his own political party. It is learnt that he will officially launch his new political entity on 1 October.

Rane, a six-time MLA from Sindhudurg, resigned from the Congress last week, claiming the party reneged on its promise of making him chief minister, bringing to an end a 12-year association with the party.

 Narayan Ranes political clout in Konkan will boost BJP, but can the party risk his tantrums?

File image of Narayan Rane. PTI

Rane met BJP national president Amit Shah on Monday, but it's learnt that the latter couldn't give him any assurances of induction into the saffron party. However, given that Rane still enjoys considerable clout in the state's south Konkan districts, the BJP doesn't want to completely alienate him. It is believed that once Rane floats his own party, the BJP may induct it as part of the NDA fold, like it did with several other smaller regional parties in Maharashtra — like Raju Shetty's Swabhimani Party, Ramdas Athawale's Republican Party of India, Vinayak Mete's Shivsangram Party, and Mahadev Jankar's Rashtriy Samaj Paksh.

Rane, who was Chief Minister of Maharashtra when he was part of the Shiv Sena in the 90s, had quit the party in 2005 and joined the Congress. He has been winning elections in the coastal Malwan constituency by huge margins for the Congress ever since.

After he floats his own party, Rane is expected to support the BJP, and may even join the government as a Cabinet minister when a reshuffle takes place in October.

Speaking to Firstpost, a senior BJP leader said, "We know how strong Rane is in Sindhudurg. But we also know his style of functioning and his behaviour. He has often attacked the top leadership of whichever party he has been part of — be it Shiv Sena or the Congress. BJP is wary of having him in the party."

Furthermore, Rane would insist on having his two sons, Nilesh and Nitesh, in the party. "The two sons are also as outspoken as he is. We can hear senior Rane out, but office bearers wouldn't like the two sons talking down to them. For all of these reasons, we are apprehensive about having Rane join BJP," the leader added.

It's also understood that the RSS won't be very welcoming towards Rane, which would render it almost impossible for the former chief minister to join the BJP directly. And Shiv Sena, which is still technically an ally of the Devendra Fadnavis government, may also be unhappy if they take Rane into their fold, a man it considers a turncoat.

On the other hand is Rane's clout over several districts of Sindhudurg — he can single-handedly clinch zilla parishad, municipal council, panchayat samiti and other important district-level posts for the party. Ever since Rane made his political debut three decades ago, he has ruled Konkan. When he was with the Sena, he helped clinch most of the Konkan districts, and followed that pattern even after defecting to the Congress. "Having Rane as a friend could help BJP make its maiden entry into these coastal districts. So all factors considered, BJP may not welcome Rane through the front door, but is likely to induct his new party as part of an NDA ally," the BJP leader further said.

Sources from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said the state BJP has already informed the central leadership of its intention of using Rane for external support. Rane's new political party is almost certain to win a few seats in the coastal districts of Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Raigad, places where the BJP has no strong leaders. The Congress and Shiv Sena are likely to find Rane a formidable challenge in the elections to come.

A former Maharashtra chief minister, on condition of anonymity, revealed that Rane's options too are limited. "BJP is not willing to take him on board officially. He would also be concerned about the political future of his two sons, which he can secure by floating his own party. But despite being a former chief minister, he would have to join the likes of local leaders like Athawale, Jankar, Mete and Sadabhau Khot," he said.

On Wednesday, BJP state unit chief Raosaheb Danve had said a decision on inducting Rane into the party fold was still under consideration. Speaking about Rane's meeting with Amit Shah in Delhi, he said there were political discussions but nothing was decided. "He had come to invite Shah for the inauguration of a hospital in Sindhudurg. We will publicly announce things once there are any substantial developments," Danve said.

Rane has already resigned from his MLC post in the state, so it's the responsibility of Chief Minister Fadnavis to ensure he gets elected to the Upper House of state legislature within six months in order for him to be inducted into the Cabinet.

But for now, all eyes are on Rane to watch what he says on 1 October at the launch function for his new political outfit.

Updated Date: Sep 29, 2017 07:05:52 IST