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Narayan Rane: A story of greed, bitterness & a political career hurtling to an end

Pratap Thorat | Updated on: 27 November 2017, 16:41 IST
Pratap Thorat

Narayan Rane is down and out. His long-cherished dream to become a minister in the BJP-led government in Maharashtra is over, at least for now. And this became clear on Monday morning when the BJP’s state unit chief Raosaheb Danve announced the party’s decision to field Prasad Lad as the party’s official candidate.

The announcement came on the last day of filing nomination papers for the hotly debated 7 December by-poll to the state legislative council.

Interestingly, Prasad Lad is another rebel, who recently left the NCP to join the BJP. The BJP hopes to build its strength in some Sena pockets in Mumbai by strengthening Lad. In the process, the BJP has displeased its party spokespersons Madhav Bhandari and Shaina NC, who were tipped as the probable candidates.

This rubs salt in ample measure on Rane's wounds as he had resigned from this seat prematurely on 21 September when he unceremoniously quit the Congress party.

Earlier, this former chief minister, desperate to enter the Assembly, had lost one by-election and one general election in 2014 on Congress tickets. Yet the Congress chose to oblige him by sending him to the legislative council.

But Rane, in turn, preferred to ditch the Congress to seek greener pastures to become a minister. Also, Rane displayed some over-smartness by forming a separate party – Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh – instead of joining the BJP and making his game more difficult.

Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray was longing to punish Rane's treachery of quitting the party, earlier in 2005. And so was the Congress. The BJP, however, was keen to make Rane a minister to irritate Uddhav, who has gleefully played a constant trouble-maker to the BJP-led government.

It was important for the BJP to send Rane to the council as a member before making him a minister. But the BJP had only 122 members and the Shiv Sena, with its 63 members, had decided to defeat Rane by joining hands even with the opposition Congress (42 members) and the NCP (41 members).

The BJP backed out and dropped Rane’s candidature for want of sufficient votes in the 288-member Assembly as they were unable to win the seat with 145 votes.

A loss of this seat would have even cost Devendra Fadanavis the government as that would have underlined the majority strength for the newly emerging alliance of the Sena with the Congress and the NCP. The BJP was not prepared to punish a boisterous Uddhav by losing power. Uddhav’s high decibel levels were therefore tolerable for the BJP.

A story of greed & change

It is an unpleasant story of greed and ditching on the one side, and venom, ruthlessness, and revenge on the other. Politics brings about a huge metamorphosis in humans and changes them into unthinkable creatures.

Till a decade back, Narayan Rane was considered to be the most loyal of Balasaheb Thackeray’s supporters. He started as a 14-year boy, who spent sleepless nights sitting over the lid of the gutter outside Sena Fuhrer’s Bandra residence, Matoshri, as a weapon-wielding Shiv Sainik.

During the day, this boy sold tickets in black outside cinema houses in suburban Chembur and later ran a vada-pav cart and then a chicken shop. But his devotion to guard Thackeray remained undeterred. When he was made revenue minister in Maharashtra in 1995, as he spent sleepless nights on the slopes of Balasaheb's hill-facing farm-house in Karjat near Lonavala. During the day he would perform his ministerial duties at the Mantralaya.

In the palace politics, Balasaheb’s trusted, younger daughter-in-law, Smita, made him the chief minister, much to the chagrin of the elder daughter-in-law and Uddhav’s wife, Rashmi.

Rane managed to survive Rashmi and Uddhav's fury for full six years, as the equation was changing in the palace. The inevitable was bound to happen as he couldn’t bend to patch-up things with Uddhav. 

Wily Congressmen picked up Rane and made him a minister in the Congress. Rane said that first Ahmed Patel and the Sonia Gandhi promised to make him chief minister twice. Rane made many enemies in the Congress with his greed, arrogance, loud mouth and his excessive love and narrow-minded power-seeking only for his two far more arrogant sons. 

Uddhav never forgave Narayan Rane and looked forward to each opportunity to demolish him.

A weakened Congress, meanwhile, had forgotten the art of handling rebels like Rane or controlling the local infighting. While Rane refused to change with the times by winning friends and well-wishers outside the palaces he chose for his operations, and outside his own family.

Now, Rane is on a downhill run and horribly lacks the calculating mind or agility to cling to the hostile slopes of the hill.

First published: 27 November 2017, 16:41 IST
Pratap Thorat

Pratap Thorat is a veteran journalist and political commentator