Narayan Rane with son Nilesh Rane. File Pic
Congress stalwart Narayan Rane is an old hand at this game, so no wonder that his latest moves, calculated as the may appear, seem to have his friends and foes on edge. Even as he continues to deny his plans of defecting to the BJP, he is well aware of the attention his reported joint meeting with BJP president Amit Shah and CM Devendra Fadnavis in Ahmedabad Wednesday night received.
On Wednesday, raising several eyebrows, Rane and his MLA son Nitesh Rane flew to Ahmedabad while Fadnavis took a private jet from Mumbai, who then collectively went to Shah's residence, reported several news channels, with visual confirmation. Earlier, too, Rane has travelled twice with Fadnavis to private functions outside Mumbai.
On Thursday, Rane said that he was on a private visit to Ahmedabad, and even challenged news outlet to produce footage of him leaving Shah's residence, claiming he doesn't leave home after 10.30 pm. However, in the same note, he maintained that the BJP has been asking him to join for the past three years. "I haven't met Amit Shah, I was on a private visit. And If I were to quit Congress, I wouldn't meet Shah or Fadnavis, I would just straightaway resigned. The BJP has been offering me to join them for a long time, but I haven't said yes or no to it." He added, "When market has a better commodity, everyone seeks it. I will tell you my decision whenever I make up my mind."
A senior BJP leader said that Rane's exit from the Congress would largely depend of the kind of resolution the Congress offers to his complaints against the state leadership along with what kind of deal the BJP offers him, as he will take his sons with him.
According to reliable sources, the package deal that Rane may get is a ministerial berth in the state or Union cabinet, for which he would have to be sent to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra or another state. Additionally, his sitting MLA son Nitesh may also want something significant if he wins a bypoll as a BJP candidate.
Meanwhile, Nilesh, Rane's elder son would become the BJP's prime choice for a Lok Sabha candidate in Konkan's Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, where the BJP wants to tame the Sena. Bear in mind that apart from his sons and a legislator, Rane also has sway on some MLAs, who might be ready to defect with him.
When contacted, CM Fadnavis wasn't available for comment, however, state BJP president Raosaheb Danve said that he wasn't aware of any such development, but added that any top quality leader was most welcome to join his party.
Unhappy in the Congress
The Rane-BJP bonhomie is even more glaring in light of Rane's failed meeting with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, wherein he claimed on Thursday that most of his grievances had remained unresolved. People close to Rane said that he was waiting for the Congress leadership to respond. "And if he doesn't get any response, he would have a good reason to quit," a Congress leader said.