Bandra East bypoll: Narayan Rane stares at political black hole

A decade after he left the Shiv Sena, Congress candidate Narayan Rane suffered a humiliating defeat in the Assembly bypoll in Bandra East, home to Matoshree, the Thackeray residence and the party’s emotional centre. Where will he go from here? The future does not look too bright for the former CM

Almost exactly a decade after he quit the Shiv Sena (in July 2005), Narayan Rane has suffered what is, arguably, one of his most humiliating defeats at the hands of the very same party in the Bandra East bypoll.

Also read: Bandra east bypoll Shiv Sena wins, Narayan Rane loses by big margin

Narayan Rane
Narayan Rane

Rane’s political career seemed to have hit its nadir in last year’s Assembly elections, when he had lost his stronghold, Kudal in the Sindhudurg district, to the Sena’s Vaibhav Naik by a margin of around 10,000 votes. And, when the Congressman threw his hat into the ring for the Bandra East bypoll, the Sainiks smelled blood, sensing an opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin of the rebel’s political career.

Uddhav Thackeray exults after the Shiv Sena’s decisive win
Uddhav Thackeray exults after the Shiv Sena’s decisive win

Thus, when the former CM lost by over 19,000 votes yesterday, the Sena celebrated with an intensity that was missing even when it won 63 seats in last year’s Assembly polls Shiv Sainiks heckled Rane, waved live chickens and even clashed with Congress supporters near his Bandra West residence. MLC and Sena’ bypoll in-charge Anil Parab summed up the mood in the Sena camp when he told mid-day, “We are happy that we have sent a traitor packing.”

Bandra factor
The loss From Bandra East will also hold a symbolic value for Rane, whose political rise began from Matoshree in the same constituency, from where the late Bal Thackeray controlled the Sena. Thackeray saw a spark in Rane, whom he elevated in the party from a corporator to the chief minister in 1999.

Narayan Rane and the late Bal Thackeray after Rane became CM in 1999. Pics/PTI and AFP
Narayan Rane and the late Bal Thackeray after Rane became CM in 1999. Pics/PTI and AFP

It was also here that Rane found enemies within the party. He accused Uddhav Thackeray of denying him opportunities and scheming against him. It was largely due to this tussle that Rane had quit the Sena in July 2005 along with a flock of Sena MLAs.

The bypoll was also hugely important for the Sena as a defeat would have been seen as a setback for Uddhav, since the constituency is his home turf because of Matoshree’s location.

The victor
Sena candidate Trupti Sawant proved to be Rane’s nemesis in a battle which was hyped in view of the veteran leader entering the fray of the Assembly bypoll, which was necessitated by the death of Sena’s sitting MLA Bala Sawant in the Bandra East segment.

Political analysts said that in the Bandra polls, Rane saw a way to consolidate his position in the Congress, which has been sliding since his defeat in the Assembly polls in October last year.

Trupti Sawant celebrates her victory. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Trupti Sawant celebrates her victory. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

They said that while the win has let the Sena put the stamp of its supremacy in Bandra East, the loss has raised a big question on the future course of Rane’s political career in a party which is in dire straits.

The Rane family as a whole is also going through a difficult phase as only younger son Nitesh Rane holds a legislator’s post. Nilesh, Rane’s elder son, lost his Parliamentary seat to the Sena last year.

Narayan Rane is now left with no option but to impress upon the Congress high command that he has played a martyr in the efforts of reviving the party in Mumbai.

Don’t mess with us: Uddhav
According to analysts, Sena has every reason to be euphoric. It worked as a unit to garner a fabulous win and did not follow Rane in making the election a mega event and took a more subtle approach. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and polls in-charge Anil Parab ensured that the campaign remained low profile and reached every doorstep in the constituency.

Analysts said Sena worked as a unit to win the election
Analysts said Sena worked as a unit to win the election

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray chided Rane for his shenanigans. “Shiv Sena is a tiger and nobody should dare to mess with it. This is the victory of loyal sainiks and late Bala Sawant’s work in the constituency. We will fulfil the promises made by the late Sawant,” he said.

Uddhav said AIMIM was misleading the Muslim community, which he thought had voted wisely this time. “The Muslim community has given an answer to the Owaisi brothers through their voting. We have showed AIMIM their place,” said Uddhav, whose demeanour has been remarkable since Rane took the plunge.

People close to the Sena chief said that he and Parab designed the strategy to keep the campaign low-key so that hopes would be raised in the Rane camp. “It was a combined effort against a man who ditched the Sena and now spent huge amounts of money for campaigning.

We worked in a simple manner, which ensured maximum votes for us. We are happy that we have sent a traitor packing,” said Parab, adding that the win had proved that Sena’s partner in the government, the BJP too had worked hard in dashing Rane’s ambitions. CM Devendra Fadnavis had actively campaigned for the Sena candidate.

Chicken waving gets PeTA angry
The People for the Ethical Treat-ment of Animals (PeTA) lashed out at the Shiv Sena for holding and waving live chickens in the air as part of its victory celebrations yesterday.

Sena workers claimed the chickens were a gift for Rane
Sena workers claimed the chickens were a gift for Rane

Even as the party workers said the chickens were a gift for Rane (who was allegedly once called a kombdi chor or chicken thief by the late Bal Thackeray), “who needed to be reminded of his defeat”, PeTA criticised the party on the issue.

“Animals claim no political sides and yet, even when humans celebrate a political win, they still make animals losers. Chickens pose no threat, they are the most gentle beings on the planet, and for them there are no voting rights, just our mercy,” Poorva Joshipura, CEO of the animal rights organisation said in a statement.

The Shiv Sena, however, shot back saying that the animal rights organisation should not blow the issue out of proportion. “If somebody has chickens with them, it is not against the law. And, anyway, this was not an official party function on the streets. This was just a spontaneous reaction from party workers.

Though I have high respect for PeTA, they should not blow this issue out of proportion,” Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe said.

Past imperfect, future tense
Where does Narayan Rane go from here? This was the question on everyone’s minds and lips after the ex-CM’s defeat yesterday. While state Congress President Ashok Chavan said that Rane would continue to be among the foremost guiding forces of the party, the Rane camp doubts Chavan’s intentions.

The rivalry between Rane and Chavan dates back to the latter’s coronation as the CM in 2008, which had angered Rane because he thought he was a better candidate for the top job. Rane had then used harsh words against the Congress high command and faced suspension, which was revoked later.

A reluctant Chavan refused to give Rane the revenue department when the ex-sainik agreed to work under him, relenting only in 2009. Chavan’s successor Prithviraj Chavan, too, ignored Rane, almost compelling him to quit the Congress altogether.

Rane never had cordial relations with seniors in the party and his loss in the 2014 elections brought cheer to his rivals in the Congress. Ashok Chavan was made state chief last month and he helped his friend Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil get the Opposition Leader’s post in the Assembly.

Rane wanted the party to give him Patil’s position if he won the Bandra polls. Political analyst Pratap Asbe, however, said Rane can’t be written off yet and his strong willpower will help him survive even the Bandra upset. “Essentially, Rane is still a Shiv Sainik, who loves to take on people. He will not sit idle. There are many instances of leaders like him staging a comeback.”

Sympathy vote, says Rane
Putting on a brave face, Rane blamed his loss on the sympathy wave in favour of Sawant’s widow. “This is not the first time that I have contested elections. This was my 9th time. Yes, I lost. I accept it. People didn’t vote for development, but they voted to show sympathy (to the Sena candidate),” he told media persons after the results were out.

The former CM refused to blame others for his loss. “I won’t blame anyone. If someone has to take responsibility, I will take the responsibility of this (loss).” He also said that, in an election, someone has to win and someone has to lose. “I thank all those who voted for me. I thank all the Congress leaders and workers for helping me out. All the Congress leaders helped me and worked for me,” he said.

Rane continued to snub the Sena and BJP even in defeat. He said he did not need any advice from others on his political career. This was in response to BJP minister Girish Mahajan and ex-Aam Adami Party leader Anjali Damania’s demand that Rane quit active politics with immediate effect in view of his successive defeats.

A crumbling Congress found solace in the defeat as well. State party chief Ashok Chavan told mid-day that the party had increased its vote share compared to the last elections. “There was no stronger candidate than Rane in the city for this poll. And Rane has proved the right candidate for us by getting more votes even though we lost the polls,” he said.

AIMIM’s dreams crushed
The dismal show by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is also being celebrated by the Shiv Sena. Earlier, Sena leaders had claimed that their real fight is with the Muslim right-wing party and not the Congress.

However, Rane managed to get more votes than what the previous Congress candidate had secured in October while AIMIM’s Siraj Rehbar Khan managed only 15,050 votes, 8,926 less than his count in the October polls. This, experts claim is a good thing for the Sena-BJP combine. “Last time, the MIM attacked only the BJP as they knew who their target was.

But, this time, with the Sena and the BJP coming together, it was difficult for the MIM to pick their target. Also, in the civic polls in Aurangabad, where MIM has a sitting MLA, the BJP-Sena is contesting together and it will be difficult for MIM to consolidate the votes,” said Dr Jose George, professor, Department of Civic and Politics, Mumbai University.

- With inputs from Varun Singh

Bandra East by the numbers

Sena’s Victory margin
Oct 2014: 15,597
April 2015: 19,008
Rise by: 3,411

Votes polled

Shiv Sena
Oct 2014: Prakash Bala Sawant 41,388 (winner)
Apr 2015: Trupti Sawant 52,711 (winner)
Votes rose by 11,323

Oct 2014: Sanjeev Bagadi 12,229
April 2015: Narayan Rane 33,703
Votes rose by 21,474

Oct 2014: Siraj R Khan 23,976
April, 2014: Siraj R Khan 15,050
Votes decreased by 8,926

Votes polled
Trupti Sawant (Shiv Sena): 52,711
Narayan Rane (Congress): 33,703
Siraj Khan (AIMIM): 15,050

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