Narayan Rane says newly floated Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh will align with NDA, but BJP remains mum

Days after floating his own party, the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh (MSP), former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane has announced that the party will join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Over the last few months, speculation was rife that Rane, who quit the Congress last month, may join BJP. He even met BJP president Amit Shah and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on several occasions. However, it was said that the BJP was unsure about having Rane, infamous for his temper outbursts, join the fold. A compromise was accordingly reached, whereby he announced a new party that will join the NDA.

Even while announcing his departure from the Congress on 22 September, Rane was cagey about his next move. "Let me first make new friends... and then I will be able to announce my next move," Rane had said at the time.

 Narayan Rane says newly floated Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh will align with NDA, but BJP remains mum

File image of Narayan Rane. PTI

On 1 October, he floated a new party, the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh, which he had said would work for the overall and all-inclusive development of the state. On questions of joining the NDA, he had said he will decide on his future course of action later.

He quit Congress, his political base for the last 12 years, alleging that the party reneged on its promise to make him Maharashtra chief minister.

On Tuesday, Rane met Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, fuelling further speculation that he is likely to join the NDA. He had, however, sought two days time to think over the decision. "In my meeting with the chief minister, I was given an offer to become a part of the NDA. I have sought two days' time to think about the proposal," Rane had said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has so far offered no comments on the issue.

The move, while confirming widespread rumours in political circles, have also added an interesting third angle to the already multi-polar political scenario in Maharashtra.

While "frenemies" BJP and Shiv Sena continue to spar over policy decisions, both at the Centre and state, Rane's stand in the alliance will be interesting to watch. Ever since he joined the Congress, he has been a bitter critic of the Shiv Sena, especially its chief Uddhav Thackeray.

Rane started his career as a supporter of the Sena, and even launched a social outfit to voice regional aspirations in the late 70s, before it became a political party and a force to reckon with. His influence was evident on the streets, but it were with his efforts to master administrative procedures, understand legal issues and the ability to move crowds that ultimately catapulted him to the post of Maharashtra chief minister, when he was serving his second term as an MLA.

In 1999, when Manohar Joshi stepped down from the post of chief minister, Rane succeeded him. He, however, held the post for less than a year, as the five-year term of the then Shiv Sena-BJP government came to an end. In the election that followed, the saffron alliance conceded power to the Congress-NCP combine.

An ambitious Rane faced his first major challenge from within the Sena with the rise of Uddhav. Uddhav was anointed executive president of Shiv Sena, and Rane, who was leader of Opposition in state Assembly, read the signs when the BJP-led NDA was routed in the 2004 general elections.

In July 2005, he was expelled from by Bal Thackeray, which led to his joining Congress. He won a hard-fought by-election from Sindhudurg district in his native Konkan and was appointed revenue minister under then Congress chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Rane continued to claim that Congress leaders had promised to make him chief minister, a pledge that was never met. In 2014, Congress lost power and Rane himself failed to make it to the Assembly. He also lost the by-election in 2015 from Bandra in Mumbai when no Congress leader campaigned for him.

Though Rane was elected MLC on a Congress ticket, he was moving away from the party, and increasingly growing closer to the BJP. At 64, Rane's decision to now join the NDA marks the beginning of the third innings of his career.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Oct 06, 2017 19:28:48 IST