The BJP too has been non-committal, but sources have signaled that the party could induct the 65-year-old to help grow its influence in the Konkan region, a bastion of its disgruntled ally, the Shiv Sena. Narayan Rane had joined the Congress after he was expelled by the Shiv Sena in 2005 and his possible entry into the BJP is already burgeoning into the next potential flashpoint between the two partners.
“The Shiv Sena made Narayan Rane the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. After leaving Shiv Sena, he was wandering here and there and spent 10-12 years in the Congress. He is a big leader, if a leader like Narayan Rane has to wait at the doorsteps of the BJP, there can be nothing worse for him,” said Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande this morning, taunting Mr Rane about the BJP’s lack of alacrity in inducting him.
Narayan Rane quit the Congress after attacking the party for reneging on its promise to make him Chief Minister, thrice. The Shiv Sena had expelled him for taking on Uddhav Thackeray, who now heads the Shiv Sena. He was thrown out of the party 12 year ago by Mr Thackeray’s father and party founder Bal Thackeray for accusing him of “blind love for his son”.
Mr Rane became Chief Minister for the first time in the coalition government run by the BJP and the Shiv Sena after Manohar Joshi stepped down. Although his influence is waning, he still remains a politician with a base in the Konkan belt and is considered an assertive voice in the legislature.
Mr Rane is expected to meet Amit Shah this evening after the BJP’s day-long mega “extended” national executive, where the party took on critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies and said in a resolution that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is the biggest reform since Independence.
The Shiv Sena has enlisted as one of those critics. It has earlier joined the opposition in questioning both the roll-out of GST and last year’s notes ban. Today, stewing over the Rane rumours, it hit out at the BJP government over price rise and inflation in an article in its mouthpiece the Saamna, saying, “Don’t talk to us about being in power and opposing the government. No one should be perturbed by the Shiv Sena’s protests against inflation. Instead they should focus on checking price rise. We cannot expect those who are trying to break away other parties’ MLAs to bring down inflation.”
The Shiv Sena, which has delivered regular threats of pulling out of the alliance ever since the BJP made large gains in the 2014 national election and state elections the same year to emerge as Maharashtra’s number 1 party, has made those noises again, setting a “Dussehra deadline” for the BJP-led state government to fully implement a waiver of farm loans. Dussehra is on September 30, next Saturday.
If the Shiv Sena withdraws support the Devendra Fadnavis government of the BJP will be in a minority and will have to seek help from Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party.