The speculation that Narayan Rane may cross over to the ruling BJP resurfaced after the Maharashtra Tourism Minister and BJP MLA Jaykumar Rawal called on the sulking Congress leader in Ratnagiri on Sunday.
However, the BJP has termed it a “courtesy visit”.
Rane, who had held important portfolios in the previous Congress-led UPA governments, has reportedly been in sulk for quite some time.
The latest cause for his discontent is said to be keeping him away from the political developments in Goa, where his party has missed the chance to form government despite emerging the single largest party in Assembly elections.
Rane senior and his son Nilesh, a former MP, had recently criticised the state unit Congress president Ashok Chavan, questioning his ‘ability’ to lead the Congress in Maharashtra.
Rawal, who was in Ratnagiri, met Rane senior at his residence.
When asked whether Rane is joining the BJP, the state unit BJP spokesperson Madhu Chavan dismissed the speculation.
“Rawal is a Tourism Minister. He is visiting Ratnagiri as the city is a key tourist destination. Rawal paid only a courtesy visit to Rane as he is a former chief minister as well as a senior leader in Maharashtra. One should not read too much in such meetings,” Chavan said.
Nilesh Rane last Month had demanded Chavan’s replacement as the state unit chief with some “more capable leader who can lead the party workers in the 2019 Assembly polls”.
Nilesh had last month stepped down as the general secretary of the Maharashtra unit of the Congress as a mark of protest against keeping vacant the post of Ratnagiri district Congress president for the last two years.
However, senior Rane, a former Shiv Sainik, had earlier clarified that he was not going to leave the Congress and had blamed his ‘detractors’ in the party for spreading such rumour.
In recently-concluded Zilla Parishad elections, though the BJP made inroads into rural Maharashtra, the Rane’s retained their stronghold in Sindhudurg district in coastal Konkan.
BJP insiders said that Rane could prove a ‘prize catch’ for the party, which is desperate to consolidate its position across the state ahead of the next polls.
“We hardly have any rural face with a statewide appeal in Maharashtra. If the BJP decides to contest the Lok Sabha elections alone in 2019 (sans Shiv Sena), leaders like Rane would be an asset for the party. Rane is resourceful and could be useful in some neighbouring constituencies for the BJP,” a party functionary said.
According to him, it won’t be surprising if leaders from the Congress, including some from Maharashtra, could be inclined to join the BJP so as to stay close to power.