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Ex-Shiv Sena men itching to go back

Certain characteristics make Shiv Sena men differ from members of other political parties they are not known for self-control and for hiding their traits.

Their aggressive nature and inability to deal with political discomfiture alienates them from others. Therefore, it has become interesting to watch Narayan Rane and Chhagan Bhujbal, both former Shiv Sainiks, responding to the agony and unhappiness they are passing through at present.

Rane is smouldering over the alleged betrayal by the Congress leadership, which, according to him, reneged on its promise to install him as the state CM. He lost his cool when his son Nilesh bit the dust in the Lok Sabha elections in the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency, his home turf.

Rane has made public his displeasure with the Congress leadership in no uncertain terms, and may go full throttle to reveal some unpleasant inner workings. He may expose the names of Congress and NCP leaders who contributed to his son’s defeat.

PWD Minister Bhujbal on the other hand, has carefully avoided showing his anger after he was defeated by a huge margin in Nasik. It’s a coincidence that both Rane and Bhujbal are convinced that the defeats were engineered by their own partymen and it was not just the Modi wave.

Bhujbal has been extremely subdued. It was not just an ordinary development when Kishor Kanhere, Bhujbal’s staunch supporter since his Shiv Sena days, decided to rejoin the party in the presence of party chief Uddhav Thackeray. Interestingly, Kanhere was neither a big name in the NCP nor a legislator or MP, but Thackeray made it a point to induct him personally.

Kanhere has been a big name in Vidarbha and is known as Bhujbal’s shadow. He was an office bearer of the Mahatma Phule Samata Par-ishad, an organisation founded by the PWD minister soon after he defected from Shiv Sena to the Congress in 1991. Bhujbal chose not to react to Kanhere’s desertion, lending credence to the belief that the move had his blessings.

Similarly, advocate Mangosh Bansode, another Bhujbal acolyte of many years, has also jumped ship to the Sena, raising a number of eyebrows due to his long association with the minister. The unperturbed Bhujbal, it seems, wants to give a message to a section within the NCP that he cannot be isolated so easily.

Bhujbal’s entry back in the Sena was stalled by none other than the Shiv Sainiks themselves because of his attempt to arrest late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in early 2000. Though he did not succeed, the incident had angered Sainiks and they are still not ready to forget it.

Sensing trouble brewing among his cadres, even Uddhav had to make an announcement that leaders who had troubled his father would not be inducted into the Sena. So, at least for now, Bhujbal has sent his emissaries to his former party and stayed back with his current political godfather, Sharad Pawar.

But, for Rane, things have become complicated. At a time when his career is fading, some prominent faces such as MLA Vijay Wadettiwar, ex-MLA Prakash Bharsakle, and leaders Shrikant Sarmalkar, Jaywant Parab, Ravindra Phatak, who all quit the Sena for him, are no longer with him. No one is sure if two other MLAs Vinayak Nihman and Manikrao Kokate are still loyal to Rane. It is a do-or-die situation for him, as he is not welcome in the BJP or the Sena.

It was said that senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde had almost sealed a deal on Rane’s entry in his party. The final meeting was supposed to happen on June 3 at Mumbai. But, before it could take place, Munde died in a tragic road accident while on the way to Delhi airport. There are rumours of Rane joining the MNS, but Raj Thackeray may not welcome him in his party probably to avoid another power centre. But, a strategic alliance can happen if Rane floats a separate political outfit and later joins hands with the MNS.

Interestingly, two other former Sainiks Ganesh Naik and Bhaskar Jadhav are not happy either. Naik is disturbed after his son Sanjeev’s defeat in the Thane Lok Sabha constituency and Jadhav had to throw a tantrum to get a ministerial berth. It will be interesting to see how many Sainiks stay put in their current parties, and how many try going back to their roots.

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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