Narayan Rane seeks return to state legislature

Narayan Rane is lobbying for a poll ticket as many in the Congress think he can attack the BJP government in the legislature without fear

Never-say-die Congressman Narayan Rane is all prepared to make a comeback to the state legislature, provided his party considers him for the legislative council polls that will be held on June 10.

Rane’s tenure as an opposition leader in the Congress-NCP government (1999-2005) is remembered as one of the finest chapters of state legislative history. File pic
Rane’s tenure as an opposition leader in the Congress-NCP government (1999-2005) is remembered as one of the finest chapters of state legislative history. File pic

The biennial polls are necessitated due to the retirement of 10 members, including chairman of the upper house Ramraje Nimbalkar and opposition leader Dhananjay Munde (both of Nationalist Congress Party).

Rane is lobbying for a poll ticket primarily because many in the party think he can attack the BJP government in the legislature without fear, even as the Congress lacks teeth in the Assembly and Council where the NCP enjoys the upper hand.

Rane’s tenure as an opposition leader in the Congress-NCP government (1999-2005) is remembered as one of the finest chapters of state legislative history. He switched sides to become a minister in the Congress government and then lost the 2014 Assembly polls from Konkan. A year later, he also failed in a by-election in Bandra.

The numbers game
However, calculations in the electoral house of the Assembly members don’t favour the Congress very much. The party can win only one seat comfortably, whereas the NCP, also sailing in the same boat, wants its two members, Nimbalkar and Munde re-elected. The NCP wants the Congress to not contest more than one seat.

The BJP, with 123 Assembly members, is in a position to win at least four seats. It will have to seek additional votes from the Sena and independents to get the fifth seat elected. Two sitting Sena ministers, Diwakar Raote and Subhash Desai are also among the retirees, but their party has nominated them again as official candidates. Their return to the house is certain because the party has enough strength in the lower house (Assembly), which will vote in these elections.

The NCP could turn out to be a big loser as it does not have many MLAs to support all its three retired members, including Prakash Binsale.

A Congress leader said a lot will depend on the arrangement that NCP and Congress make between them. The NCP has already requested the Congress to help Nimbalkar and Munde because of their stature in the house. Sources said Congress hasn’t accepted NCP’s request yet. Sources added that Congress has demanded it get the post of deputy chairman in exchange for its support to the NCP.

Backroom negotiations
Horse-trading can’t be ruled out when there are more candidates than seats. There have been instances of cash-rich candidates, including independents, winning comfortably even when the parties have adequate votes. Of late, the trend of making the polls unopposed (number of candidates matches the number of seats) has gained significance because it saves ill feeling and prevents malpractices. The CM is expected to reach out to leaders from other parties. BJP is expected to repeat Shobha Fadnavis and Vinayak Mete. There are many in the reckoning for remaining BJP seats.

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