Narayan Rane is on the verge of shifting his loyalties like Nitish Kumar, and joining BJP soon. During the recent Ganesh festival, Devendra Fadnavis had visited Rane’s residence and also Rane met Amit Shah, the negotiation is done on the terms of Rane getting some ministry in BJP government.
Rane joined Shiv Sena in his early twenties and started his political career as local Shakha Pramukh at Chembur, Mumbai. Then he became the Councillor of Kopargaon. In 1999, when Manohar Joshi stepped down from the post of Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Rane succeeded him. Before joining politics, Rane was a member of the Harya-Narya gang, which was active in Chembur, in northeast Bombay in the 1960s. He entered politics to take on rival gangsters and joined the Shiv Sena. With time, Rane, who started his journey as a ‘Shakha Pramukh’, was promoted in the party, and since then he has only climbed the ladder of success.
The growing popularity of Rane as a young dynamic leader caught the eye of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. With the exit of Chhagan Bhujbal from the Shiv Sena in 1991, Rane gradually rose up the party ranks. He worked at various positions, including municipal corporator. Those days Shiv Sena was known for its hard-line activities and Mumbai was wrapped in underworld activities, Arun Gawli to Dawood all were at power display and there were everyday shootouts for lands and extortions. Sena was parallel to all these forces and they were in need of political workers like Rane.
Anyways, as Sena politics changed and the grass root workers felt ignored, one by one they all quit the party and joined opposition. Rane publicly criticised Uddhav Thackeray and questioned his administration abilities. Sena subsequently expelled Rane from the party on July 3, 2005. Later he also resigned from the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and went to join Congress and became the Revenue Minister of Maharashtra. In August 2011, there was a dispute in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly alleging Rane’s involvement in the Adarsh Housing Society scam.
Pune-based RTI activist Ravindra Barhate said that Rane, during his tenure as Revenue Minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP Government in 1998, had returned a prime plot of land in Pune to a person who had already received compensation from the government under the Land Acquisition Act. In 1998, Rane, in his position as a quasi-judicial authority, had decided in favour of Datta Bahirat who had given his power of attorney to Rohan Builders. Bahirat through Rohan Builders had sought to return his land that had been acquired by the government for housing of flood-affected people following the rupture of the Panshet Dam in Pune in 1961. Citing a 1994 High Court order, Rane gave back the unused 2.15 lakh sq feet of the 2.75 lakh sq feet to Bahirat on the repayment of Rs 16 lakh to the government exchequer.
In Jan 2011, a delegation of Shiv Sena leaders met Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan, demanding a separate inquiry into alleged land scams, which took place during the tenure of the then Revenue Minister Rane. The Sena leaders alleged that the state lost revenue of crores of rupees after Rane de-reserved several government plots in favour of individuals or private companies. Most of the matters later landed in the court. In February 2011, the Bombay High Court issued a notice to Rane following allegations that an organisation headed by his wife Neelam misused a plot of land in Andheri and built a restaurant on it. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL), filed by Ashok Karangutkar, alleged that the Sindhudurg Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, of which Neelam Rane is President, set up The Jail Restaurant and Lounge in Sindhudurg Bhavan at Four Bungalows, Andheri, on a plot allotted for educational activities. On July 21, Rane submitted his resignation to the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, to quit the post of Industries Minister in Chavan’s cabinet.
In the wake of 2008 Mumbai attacks, Vilasrao Deshmukh, then Chief Minister of Maharashtra was removed from the post and Ashok Chavan was made the Chief Minister. As soon as Chavan was made Chief Minister, Rane protested against Congress Party and its senior leaders resulting in his suspension from the party for six years. Later Rane apologised to Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and was re-inducted into Congress Party and was made Industry Minister of Maharashtra. Now his aspiration to become Maharashtra Congress Chief is not fulfilled by Congress. The deal is ‘off’ as the party leadership has adopted a tougher posture against him. Rane had been making noises about Maharashtra Congress Chief Ashok Chavan’s leadership. He showed his rebellious attitude time and again. Hopping from one party to another is Rane’s way of politics, and it won’t be surprising, if he joins BJP.
Rane said he would announce the decision of “going in a new direction”. Irony is that Chavan is an accused in the Adarsh Housing Society scam in which flats meant for war widows and military personnel were allotted to civilians. There were several other alleged violations of rules. Congress has lost several elections since the Lok Sabha polls but they continued to hold on their posts. Rane alleges that Chavan is “finishing off” the Congress in Maharashtra and that he is “incompetent” to lead the party. Meanwhile, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray may ask his 10 ministers (6 Cabinet, 4 MoS) to quit the government if BJP welcomes Rane into its fold. Moreover, Sena is planning to take to Mumbai’s streets on the issue of petrol price hike. But Rane’s imminent entry into BJP is a cause of graver concern for Thackeray. Moreover, BJP may use Rane, who left Sena in 2005 after differences with Uddhav, to target Matoshree. Given his fabled temper, the ex-CM may gleefully tread on the toes of Sena ministers at state cabinet meetings, much to the relief of BJP. Many political equations can change with due time, let’s see Rane quits Congress or stays in the party.
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