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Narayan Rane becomes the latest challenge to BJP-Sena unity

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 30 October 2017, 15:06 IST
Narayan Rane (PTI)

The Maharashtra Cabinet is set for an expansion and many legislators from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have their hopes pinned on it. The state Assembly still has a couple of years left in its term.

The aspirants also include former Congressman Narayan Rane, one of Maharashtra's most ambitious leaders who is now trying to salvage a floundering political career.

In fact, this has become a big headache for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as ally The Shiv Sena has expressed discontent over including Rane in the Cabinet. The party has even threatened to walk out of the government if Rane is made a minister.

After failing to achieve his goal of becoming chief minister, Rane quit the Congress. And when the BJP leadership expressed their inability to include him in the party due to political reasons, he formed his own political party – the Maharashtra Swarajya Paksh (MSP) – earlier this month and joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Rane was assured that he would be included in the Cabinet as an NDA ally. Now the time has come for BJP leaders to walk the talk. But given the bitterness between Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray and Narayan Rane, the inclusion of the latter in the cabinet would never be an easy task.

It is bound to antagonise the Shiv Sena, which is already in criticism mode right from the day the state government was formed. Rane’s entry into the Cabinet would only add fuel to the fire. And it was clear from the hectic political activities over cabinet expansion in the state on Sunday.

Anticipating Rane’s inclusion, Shiv Sena has already put up an obstacle for the BJP. Uddhav Thackeray, according to highly reliable sources, has conveyed to Fadnavis that things would not be smooth sailing for the government if Rane is included in the Cabinet.

Sources in Shiv Sena said that Thackeray has clearly told Fadnavis that he will have to seriously rethink about continuing with the BJP if Rane is included in the cabinet. And the message has left BJP leaders a worried lot. So much so that Fadnavis is learnt to have met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief Sharad Pawar, probably to seek help to salvage the government in case the Shiv Sena withdraws and walks out.

Sources said Fadnavis and Pawar had a 30-minute-long meeting Sunday to discuss the possible political crisis and ways to resolve it. BJP leaders have refused to comment on the issue so far.

Incidentally, Shiv Sena had not reacted as sharply, when Rane’s party joined the NDA in the first week of October. But now, since possibilities of Rane’s inclusion in the Cabinet have become stronger, Shiv Sena has decided to up the ante.

“We have conveyed our displeasure about it to the chief minister. Shiv Sena cannot be a part of the cabinet along with Rane. BJP can expect anything if Rane is included in the cabinet,” said Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande.

Amid speculations, Shiv Sena leader and minister of state for Home, Deepak Kesarkar, said, “It is too premature to say that Rane will be included in the cabinet. I would like to wait more since the inclusion of Rane in the cabinet is most unlikely. With his strength and public support in Konkan reducing rapidly, Rane would not be of any use to any party. In my opinion, BJP will not bet its future on him.”

Meanwhile, Sena MP and editor of the party mouthpiece Saamna, Sanjay Raut, hit out again at the BJP calling it an enemy like Raavan. Speaking at a convention of party office bearers and people’s representatives from North Maharashtra, at Nashik, Raut said –

“BJP is known to backstab. Will cut it to size if face to face fight takes place. Defeating BJP in coming elections would be the real tribute to Balasaheb Thackeray. I am confident that Sena will bounce back as big brother and Uddhav Thackeray would be the next CM of Maharashtra.”

A senior BJP leader who did not wish to be named, said, “The threats are not to be taken seriously. The government is strong and will not only complete its term but also we will win more seats in next Assembly elections. We have stopped paying heed to the hollow threats of Sena, long back.”

First published: 30 October 2017, 15:06 IST