Maharashtra assembly polls: In Kankavli, it's Nitesh Rane versus all

Updated: Oct 15, 2019, 12:44 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Kankavli

Party-hopping Ranes have a fight in their hands to retain assembly seat, as Shiv Sena plots revenge with a little help from Congress and NCP

Nitesh Rane campaigning in Varavade, Kankavli
Nitesh Rane campaigning in Varavade, Kankavli

Kankavli: Rarely has a candidate been so polarising that not just the Opposition, but even members of the party from which he is contesting, are uniting to see him defeated. But in the Kankavli constituency, that is the story of MP Narayan Rane's son Nitesh. Despite being in an alliance with BJP, Shiv Sena has nominated Satish Sawant, who ended his 25-year association with the Ranes only a fortnight back.

Sawant followed Rane when he quit the Sena, but has now returned to the party when Nitesh joined the BJP. Worse, some local BJP members, along with their Congress and NCP counterparts, are silently helping the Sena, their only common aim being the Nitesh's defeat.

Narayan Rane at a meet. Pics/Satej Shinde
Narayan Rane at a meet. Pics/Satej Shinde

Nitesh Rane told mid-day, "Since I have started understanding the politics, I have become used to this type of elections. But, more important for us is people's perception. Voters are happy with the development work done by the Rane family. Nothing else matters. I know a few are trying to play mischief, but the rest of the leadership and workers are working for my victory."

Till now a Congress MLA, Nitesh's nomination came at the cost of BJP's own Sandesh Parkar. So, it is no secret that Parkar is among those who are openly campaigning for the Sena. Parkar had even filed his nomination as an independent, but withdrew in Sawant's favour. "Had I contested as an independent, votes would have been divided and that would have helped Nitesh Rane," said Parkar, who openly shares the dais with Sawant and urges voters to press the 'bow and arrow' symbol.

Satish Sawant, Shiv Sena
Satish Sawant, Shiv Sena

As for local Congress and NCP leaders, they see it as a straight shootout between the Sena and BJP and they know who the lesser evil is for them. Sindhudurg BJP President Pramod Jatar claims he is unfazed by this seemingly united opposition. "The entire party, except two or three people, is supporting the official candidate. Action has been initiated against cadre who are helping the Sena."

Nevertheless, there is no denying the sense of betrayal among the Sena and Congress workers. Decades ago, Rane, as a Sena man, ferociously tore into the Congress, turning the region into a virtual battlefield.

Nitesh Rane at a dargah in Kankavli
Nitesh Rane at a dargah in Kankavli

Then, as a Congress man, he mounted distasteful personal attacks on the Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray, effectively burning bridges and making enemies all around him.
Ironically, it is only Nitesh's opponent Sawant who minces words.

"Our fight is not with the BJP, but with Rane," he says in his speeches, indicating that he wants to garner the sympathy of local BJP workers, while not rocking the bigger alliance. With so much at state, both sides are appealing to the emotions of the voters. Senior Sena leader Subhash Desai tells them that this election is an opportunity gifted by Uddhav, and that voters should use it to free themselves from the clutches of the Ranes.

Narayan Rane counters, "I will not ask people to vote for Nitesh because he is my son but because he is serious about developing the constituency," he told a gathering of professionals (doctors, lawyers, CAs and businessman) on Friday. But with just 10 days to go before polling, voters don't seem to have made up their minds.

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