Maharashtra Cong: Rane runs out of options, could be poll campaign chief

Even as the Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane quits the government on Monday, he is unlikely to leave the Congress party, given the existing political scenario in the state.

Congressmen say that with Rane's attempt to build pressure on the party top brass to remove Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan failing, he has been looking for some kind of face-saving consolation ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled for October. Rane is now likely to be appointed as the head of the Congress’s election campaign committee. Once Rane manages to get this post, he would be part of key seat sharing talks with the NCP, making him a key player in the alliance.

On Thursday, Rane announced that he would resign from the state cabinet on Monday though he declined to spell out the reasons for his move. The Industries minister’s announcement came as a major bolt for the Maharashtra Congress, which is yet to recover from the Lok Sabha poll debacle. Rane reiterated on Saturday that he would not leave the party and would reveal the reasons for his resignation on Monday.

According to Congress leaders, the party is quite aware that there is an anti-Rane atmosphere in the Konkan region and elevating him would not help the party much in the election. “Still, the party does not want to lose a leader like Rane in the present scenario. It will try to pacify Rane to retain him,” said one Congress leader.

The Congress high-command sent state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre and former Mumbai Congress chief Kripashankar Singh to pacify Rane late on Thursday night. However, sources close to the development said that the meeting was a mere formality and bore no fruit with Rane adamant about bagging a key party post.

 Maharashtra Cong: Rane runs out of options, could be poll campaign chief

Narayan Rane in this file photo. PTI

Earlier, on 16 May, Rane quit as minister after his son Nilesh Rane, the sitting MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency, lost to Shiv Sena's Vinayak Raut in the Lok Sabha polls, following a revolt by a section of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) workers. “Rane resigned to put pressure on the central leadership to remove Chavan from the top post due to the congress’s embarrassing defeat in the Lok Sabha. He did it with an eye on the top post,” said a Congress leader. Rane's resignation then was rejected and he was asked to continue in the post.

After the Lok Sabha elections, Rane personally met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to press for Prithviraj Chavan's removal. In a two-page letter to Gandhi, Rane stated that the Congess would be completely wiped out in the upcoming assembly election in Maharashtra if the party contests elections under his leadership. However, to his surprise, Gandhi asked Chavan to continue as CM and to lead the party in the state for the Assembly election.

In a smart move, meanwhile, amid speculation that Rane was weighing his options, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray announced on Thursday that neither the Sena nor the BJP would welcome him -- nobody who troubled Balasaheb will be allowed to returnn to the fold, Uddhav said, indicating that he was referring to the former Sainik Rane. “Uddhav’s emotional pitch has blocked Rane’s entry into the saffron alliance. Rane now has no option but to stay within the Congress or launch his own political outfit. However, if he does that at this juncture, it will be nothing short of political suicide,” said a senior Congress leader.

Some Rane aides also said that the Konkan strongman would tour the region and consolidate his family’s prospects after his son failed miserably in the Lok Sabha elections.

BJP leaders said that their leadership is also quite aware of the political atmosphere in the Konkan region against Rane. “So, it is not going to help us anyway. At the same time, we don’t want any issues with our old ally Shiv Sena,” said a BJP leader adding that he doesn’t have backing of congress MLAs.

A section of congress leaders also said that former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan would be upset if Rane is made the poll campaign chief since he has been eyeing the post for a long time. “If Chavan is kept out of the party’s scheme of things, there will be no representation of the Marathwada region in the party. The high-command should take this into account too before bowing to Rane’s pressure,” the leader said.

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Updated Date: Jul 20, 2014 09:40:22 IST