The former CM needs to learn from his mistakes and emerge as a strong alternative to those trying to control the state Congress unit
Finally, Narayan Rane has a reason to smile and a direction for the progress of his political career. Thanks to the party high command, the Congress’ ‘angry bird’ is expected to invest his firepower at the right place — the state legislature, where he performs best.
But not all in the Congress are happy with Rane’s rehabilitation. In choosing Rane as its official candidate for the legislative council, the Congress leadership has sidelined people in charge of party affairs in Maharashtra. State Congress chief Ashok Chavan wanted a sitting MLC Muzaffar Hussain to contest the elections again and he had also made a recommendation in this regard to the party headquarters in Delhi. The high command also rejected Avinash Pande, Chavan’s choice for the Rajya Sabha seat and, instead, imposed former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s candidature on the state Congress.
The Shiv Sainik-turned-Congress leader should be happy that the Congress leadership has given him yet another opportunity to prove his mettle against his arch rivals — the Sena and the BJP. All these years, ever since he defected to the Congress in 2005 from the Sena, the leader’s main grouse is that the Congress did not make him chief minister, though he was promised the post. He had protested in an unsavoury manner and was suspended from the party before being inducted as a minister in charge of a less important department in the Ashok Chavan cabinet.
The leadership that Rane accused of doing injustice to him time and again, has now landed him a job prospect that every senior leader yearns for. Rane had been restless after losing the Assembly elections in 2014 and, a year later, the Bandra bypoll. It is time he mends his ways, avoids making the mistakes he committed in the past 11 years and emerges as a strong alternative to the leaders who are trying to control the state party unit ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. He could be the next Congress CM, if the party manages to emerge as a single largest party with or without joining hands with the Nationalist Congress Party.
But will Rane be able to achieve his most cherished target within the next three years? A lot will depend on how he meets the challenges posed by rivals within the Congress, such as Ashok Chavan, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and former CM Prithviraj Chavan.
Once upon a time, Rane was surrounded by his trusted supporters. But now, most of these supporters have deserted him. They went back to the Sena or joined the BJP. The reason for this mass desertion was Rane’s alleged partisan attitude. The leaders who left fuming accuse him of nepotism. Not only Rane, but also his two sons — one a former MP and the second a sitting MLA — will have to be more accommodating and gracious if they want their father to regain the past glory.
In the past 11 years, Rane hasn’t been able to expand his base as a mass leader of the Congress across Maharashtra. He has not been able to create a meaningful space in Mumbai and has considerably lost his clout in Konkan.
He still has time on his hands to fill the void. The identity of being a Maratha can add to his credentials, which have always helped ambitions of leaders like him. Tackling regional satraps in the Congress and the NCP will be a hard challenge to Rane’s political plan.
And Rane should not be banking on his parliamentary skills alone for getting him that unparalleled position in the Congress. The BJP and the Sena very well understand what his nuisance value would mean in the legislature. Rane shouldn’t expect this government to sit idle even as he hits hard at the rulers. Any government would play tricks to bring troublesome opposition leaders to their knees. The Fadnavis government is no different. Rane may very well ask some mighty leaders in the current opposition set-up, who have been maimed like never before.
Whatever it turns out to be, the Upper House is all set for some fireworks.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org