Sindhudurg in the Konkan region of Maharashtra has long been the bastion of Congress's Narayan Rane. But, his elder son Nilesh suffered a debilitating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, shocking the senior ex-minister.
Looking to restore their pride and honour, the minister and his younger son, Nitesh, have launched a bid to regain foothold in the region. Narayan is contesting from Kudal and Nitesh from Kankavli, in the upcoming Assembly elections.
FIGHTING FOR PRIDE: Narayan Rane (far right) and his son Nitesh (in yellow) are contesting from Kudal and Kankavli Assembly constituencies respectively. File pic
According to the Ranes, the Bharatiya Janata Party is working out a plan to make Mumbai a Gujarati-majority city and ‘snatch it away from Maharashtra’.
Nitesh feels the Gujarati community is forming ghettos, and that this time it will decide the fate of more than 12 candidates only in Mumbai, which is alarming.
“They are becoming voters everywhere in the city, and forming a ghetto by dislodging the local Marathis. The Thackerays (Raj and Uddhav), who made a god out of Modi, are responsible for this. Instead of attacking north Indians, they should have questioned the Gujaratis,” said Nitesh.
However, Rane senior went a step ahead and even compared PM Narendra Modi with former PM Morarji Desai. “Modi is trying to take away Mumbai from Maharashtra. We didn’t let it happen when Morarji wanted to snatch Mumbai from Maharashtra, and even this time we won’t let it happen,” he said.
The former minister claimed many important offices from Mumbai have been shifted to Gujarat and those should be brought back. He also sought to refute the BJPs allegation that many MIDC zones in Maharashtra had been shut, saying the state had 263 MIDC complexes and all of them are fully operational. Attacking Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel, he said, “She comes here and tells businessmen to shift to Gujarat from Maharashtra. We won’t let this happen, Maharashtra was number one and it shall continue to be so.”
Yet, the Ranes are lying uncharacteristically low in their campaigning. Rane senior hasn’t allowed Nitesh to go around the constituency with many men, especially with those who aren’t from Konkan. Rane senior concedes that, after the Lok Sabha debacle, he has realised that some of his ‘supporters’ were actually defaming him. While he has made appearances for other candidates, for his own family he has preferred to convene small meetings.
“We are meeting people in their villages, wadis, and at other small meetings. We know people support us, but we did lose the Lok Sabha elections. When we met people, we understood that while they had no issues with the Rane family, there were some alleged supporters who spoiled everything for us,” said Nitesh.
In the 2009 Assembly polls, Rane’s close confidante, Ravindra Phatak, lost in Kankavli on a Congress ticket by just 34 seats. Phatak, it is said, had campaigned last time with many locals, which clearly didn’t work for him. He is now contesting on a Sena ticket from Thane.
Rane senior explained, “In Konkan, we pack mangoes in a box and when we find any rotten mango, we throw it out. I have done the same thing. I realised that some people were working against me, and I have now removed them. They are now contesting on BJP tickets.”
The leader hinted at once-close aide Rajan Teli, an ex-MLC now contesting on a BJP ticket from Sawantwadi. Another of Rane’s close aides, Vijay Sawant, has rebelled against Nitesh and is fighting as an independent candidate from Kankavli.
Both the Ranes chose not to say any words against Shiv Sena (Narayan’s former party), in spite of Rane senior facing strict competition from Sena’s Vaibhav Naik in Kudal. Rane senior, the incumbent MLA from Kudal, puts himself at the top of the list of CM candidates from the Congress, but like a seasoned politician, says ‘Madam’ — Congress chief Sonia Gandhi – would take the final call.
Number of votes incumbent Kankavli MLA Pramod Jathar received in the 2009 Assembly polls
Number of votes incumbent Kudal MLA Narayan Rane received in the 2009 Assembly polls