Narayan Rane's one-time chela Ravindra Phatak emerges as a giant killer

The former guru–chela pair of Narayan Rane and Ravindra Phatak has entered the Legislative Council, albeit in contrasting styles.

Ravindra Phatak defeated Vasant Davkhare
Ravindra Phatak defeated Vasant Davkhare

Congress leader Rane is one among 10 candidates in the Assembly electoral college who were elected unopposed last week. Rane will now be sitting in the opposition, while his former disciple, now a Sena leader, will be seated in the treasury benches after emerging as a giant-killer, by ending legislative council deputy chairman and NCP leader Vasant Davkhare’s 24-year-old reign in the Thane-Palghar electoral college of local self-government.

On Monday, Phatak defeated Davkhare by 151 votes in a stunning performance that he accomplished in alliance with the BJP. The election was a prestige issue for the Sena-BJP alliance as they worked together for destroying the NCP’s clout in the Thane district.

Phatak attributed his victory to the effort of Sena and BJP. “I won because of wholehearted support from the Sena and BJP. The voters trusted me and my party leaders too stood strong behind me,” he said.

A dream of becoming legislator had been eluding Phatak, who is a Thane municipal corporator since 2002. He contested the 2009 Assembly polls from Kankavli in Konkan, Rane’s fiefdom, but lost to the BJP’s Pramod Jathar by a mere 34 votes. He expected Rane to allow him to nurture the constituency further, but Rane’s younger son Nitesh had been eyeing the seat after Phatak’s defeat. Phatak severed ties with Rane and the Congress immediately after the Lok Sabha results in June 2014 and joined the Sena. He failed again in the Assembly polls in Thane segment.

However, on Monday, Phatak did the Sena extremely proud. He succeeded in getting 601 votes against Davkhare’s 450 votes from local self-governments in Thane and Palghar districts. Even the 72 votes that Vasai strongman Hitendra Thakur had promised Davkhare couldn’t help him . The poll to elect an MLC was held on June 3. 99.72% voters (1,057 of 1,060 voters) cast their votes.

Phatak took all precautions to protect his voters from the NCP’s influence. He dispatched some 500-odd voters off to holidays in Goa and Mahabaleshwar before the ballot. Sources said some members of the Congress and NCP defied the alliance’s directive and voted for Phatak. “Phatak couldn’t have won without votes from the Congress and NCP members. Davkhare’s party rivals did not help him,” said a senior NCP leader. Davkhare accepted defeat and congratulated Phatak.

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