Narayan Rane has had a tumultuous political journey over 50 years, starting from his early days as a small-time gangster to briefly becoming the chief minister of Maharashtra, switching political sides and now leaving the party he represented for 12 years.
There were enough indications that he would quit the party sooner or later given his rising unhappiness in the last few months. Although the news might not have come as a shocker to the Congress, it is however evident that Rane's exit would cause some dent in the party at a time when it is struggling in Maharashtra.
In the 60s, Rane was a member of the Harya-Narya gang, which was active in Chembur in Mumbai, as reported by DNA. He joined the Shiv Sena as a shakha pramukh, gradually working his way up the ranks. Life has come full circle for the Konkan strongman from his early days in the rough and tumble of politics. In 1999, he became chief minister of Maharashtra in a Shiv-Sena-BJP government for nine months. At the time, Sudhir Sawant, the then All India Congress Committee joint secretary, was quoted by Outlook as saying that it was a sign of the times that 'a man not even fit to be an MLA should today become the chief minister of a state like Maharashtra.' The same Congress later took Rane into its fold in 2005 and promptly gave him the plum assignment of revenue minister.
In 2005, Rane's ostensible reason for rebelling against the Shiv Sena was the change in guard from Bal Thackeray to his son Uddhav. In his resignation letter, he had said that the Sena was no longer the party that it was when the Thackeray patriarch was at the helm and said that Shiv Sainiks 'do not get love, affection and trust from you as they used to get from saheb', as reported by India Today. He was later expelled from the party at a meeting of corporators and MLAs. However, a possible reason for his revolt against the party was that he feared he could lose out on his post of leader of the opposition to the party's then general secretary Subhash Desai, the India Today report mentioned above points out.
Subsequently, Rane became the bête noire of the Shiv Sena, with the saffron party regularly taking potshots at him. On one occasion, Sena mouthpiece Saamna featured a morphed photo lampooning Rane on its front page, depicting him as a bride confused in her new house. This was at a time when Rane harboured chief ministerial aspirations. Rane's supporters, true to their leader's aggressive style, responded with angry protests and pelted stones at Saamna's office in Pune, as reported by The Hoot.
While the Shiv Sena had its reasons to deride Rane, the Congress did not have an easy time dealing with him either. After Ashok Chavan was made the chief minister of Maharashtra in 2008, Rane launched a tirade against none other than party president Sonia Gandhi, after which he was briefly suspended. However, the suspension was later revoked, reported The Indian Express.
The Maharashtra Assembly elections of October 2014 served as a rude shock to the Konkan leader. Rane lost the election in Kudal, his constituency for six terms, to the Shiv Sena's Vaibhav Naik. He was defeated by a massive margin of over 10,200 votes.
However, till very recently, although Rane had been saying that he would not be leaving the Congress the circumstances around him did not quite signalled so. In April this year, he had maintained, "There is no proposal or discussion to quit the Congress as yet. When I will take such a decision, I will speak out." He had then said that he was criticising the party as he felt that it needed to be strong in order to win the next election. Speculation about Rane leaving the Congress increased recently when chief minister Devendra Fadnavis visited his house during the Ganesh festival.
Since the Maharashtra elections, Rane's political fortunes have seen a downward spiral. While he has spoken out about not getting due in the Congress, it remains to be seen whether his gamble of leaving the party pays off.
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Updated Date: Sep 22, 2017 14:36:39 IST