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Narayan Rane poses twin dilemmas for BJP

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-10-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra has informally invited former chief minister Narayan Rane to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), said a senior BJP leader and minister in the Maharashtra government.

Rane, who left the Shiv Sena in 2005 on a bitter note, was with the Congress for a dozen years since then, until he formed a new party called Swambhimani Paksha on Sunday. According to the BJP minister cited above, top state leaders of the BJP themselves suggested Rane form a party so he could join NDA, instead of Rane directly joining the BJP.

However, there is much more that remains to be settled.

“We have not been able to sort out the differences within the party over inducting Rane. But we cannot ignore a politician of his stature and experience also. Rane would be an asset in Konkan and Mumbai against Shiv Sena and Congress. We suggested to him that he launch a political party which could later join the NDA,” the minister cited above said, requesting anonymity. He said Rane could be made a cabinet minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government once his party joined the NDA. He, however, added that a formal invite could be sent only after Rane’s party gets registered.

At the same time, the state BJP is confronted by two dilemmas: how to accommodate Rane in the state cabinet, and how not to upset ally Shiv Sena that still harbours a grudge against Rane.

According to this BJP leader and other party functionaries, the party leadership, including Fadnavis himself, was struggling to find “a suitable slot” for Rane in the cabinet. “He is a former chief minister who has also held significant portfolios like revenue and industry before. He will have to be suitably rewarded, but all major portfolios are held by other senior BJP leaders. Some current BJP minister will have to lose his portfolio but that is a tough call to take,” said the BJP leader.

Fadnavis himself holds important portfolios like home and urban development, among other departments. Senior BJP leader Chandrakant Patil holds the crucial revenue and public works departments. All other major ministries such as finance, power, housing, water resources, agriculture and rural development have been allocated to senior BJP laders while ally Shiv Sena’s leaders have portfolios including industry and transport. Before Patil, senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse held the revenue ministry, but he resigned last year following corruption charges that are being investigated. Rane is learnt to have demanded the revenue ministry but Patil is a party senior and also close to BJP president Amit Shah.

Fadnavis also does not want to antagonise the Shiv Sena by being seen as “unduly favouring Rane”, according to another state BJP functionary who did not want to be identified. Rane has targeted the Shiv Sena since his exit from that party in 2005.

Some Shiv Sena leaders, like minister of state for finance Deepak Kesarkar, had publicly cautioned the BJP against inducting Rane, before the latter formed his party. While the BJP believes the Shiv Sena would not go to the extent of pulling out of the government on Rane’s induction, it is also conscious of the Shiv Sena’s reservations over sharing power with “someone who has publicly abused Sena president Uddhav Thackeray”, according to the BJP functionary quoted earlier. He said Rane, with his clout in Konkan and aggressive style of functioning, would be a good weapon against the Shiv Sena for the BJP, but added that “the temperamental politician would have to be used wisely and not as a loose cannon against the Sena”.

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