Unwilling to accept Narayan Rane in their fold, BJP loyalists question why the party needs defectors when they have built it brick-by-brick
When asked what package would estranged Congress leader Narayan Rane get if he joined their party, a senior BJP leader texted me last week, "Hahahah. No package but only wreckage."
This reaction is representative of a large section of BJP leaders and workers who do not want Rane to join them, and are ganging up against this possibility.
No doubt, there are some people in the BJP, sitting high up in the hierarchy, who think that Rane could be useful in expanding the party's base. But this idea has been challenged by none other than the party's mouthpiece Tarun Bharat, a Marathi daily that publishes from the RSS headquarter city, Nagpur.
In a hard-hitting article, the paper's CEO, Sunil Kuhikar, raises a pertinent question that every hard-working RSS and BJP worker faces these days. These are the people who suffered humiliation at the hand of the erstwhile rulers, did time in jail, sacrificed their family life and campaigned door-to-door, taking the party from two seats in Lok Sabha to a massive mandate in 2014.
A question the RSS-BJP cadre has asked — and Tarun Bharat has happily endorsed — is why does the BJP need leaders who spat venom against them in the past? "Electoral victories may seem easy because of these Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams, but can we continue to advocate this method? It is unfortunate that the party gates are open to these power-hungry people," states the article.
Since the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the party has inducted countless leaders, including some tainted ones, from other parties. The local self-government polls held recently witnessed an uprising among BJP loyalists because they were denied tickets in order to accommodate the 'Aaya Rams'.
The Rane episode, which has been running for quite some time, has become unbearable for the loyalists yet again, especially after the Congress leader's reported meeting with party president Amit Shah. Rane has denied the meeting with Shah; so has CM Devendra Fadnavis, who was there in Ahmedabad when the alleged meeting took place.
People close to Rane say that the meeting was all about sorting out some issues related to a medical college/hospital that the Rane family is getting built in Sindhudurg. Rane's detractors in the Congress say that the leader does not want the BJP government to probe some charges against him and his family.
Despite being touted as a BJP mouthpiece, when it comes to criticising its own party, Tarun Bharat doesn't mince words.
This particular article does not shy away from asking the party whether a leader who used violence against BJP workers in Konkan should now be used to expand the party in a coastal region.
"There are a huge number of BJP workers who suffered from Rane's excesses in Kankavali and Kudal. And yet they have kept the party alive there. Do you expect these workers to celebrate Rane? Do you expect them to gift a meticulously built-up party unit to Rane?" states the Tarun Bharat.
BJP's Sindhudurg president, ex-MLA Pramod Jathar, too has vehemently opposed any move to induct Rane, saying that the party high command hasn't told him anything about it.
Now, the only hope that BJP loyalists have is CM Devendra Fadnavis. Fadnavis would certainly think twice before allowing Rane a berth in his cabinet, because he has himself seen from the opposition benches what Rane did to the three Congress CMs, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan.
Rane did not spare the Congress high command, alleging that it had failed to make him the CM, as was promised to him when he made the Congress his home 11 years ago. What if the BJP does a Congress when it comes to fulfilling promises?
Currently, the narrative swings on ifs and buts. With the BJP unwilling to spill the beans and Rane showing overenthusiasm, which is also seen as a pressure tactic to get the Congress to meet his demands, things appear unsure.
The BJP's national executive meeting in Bhubaneshwar will be over by the time you read this piece. The party's state executive will meet later this month.
It seems the BJP should be able to make up its mind during a crucial conclave or ahead of it. Until then, Rane may count on his stars.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org