The Bharatiya Janata Party’s offer to Narayan Rane of a seat in Rajya Sabha says a lot about the political situation in Maharashtra. For instance, the BJP, riding the knife’s edge with the Shiv Sena, does not want to further alienate the partner. It is unsure of the electoral calculations in the state if it were to go it alone as it did in the previous elections.
Rane is a former chief minister and was able to displace Manohar Joshi from the seat with the blessings of the late Bal Thackeray. After he acrimoniously left the Shiv Sena, he lost favour, apparently for all times. Chhagan Bhujbal, an earlier defector from the Sena, perhaps can expect a cup of tea and relative warmth at the Thackeray household, but not Rane. That’s Rane’s ranking with Uddhav Thackeray.
Uddhav Thackeray’s animus against Rane is so strong that he has threatened to destabilise a government of which his party is an acrimonious part. The threat of pulling out from the government if Rane were inducted into the cabinet is seen as real – or most likely –by the BJP. Despite sabre-rattling by both sides, the fear of having to contest against each other again for the Assembly, has gripped them.
Unless, of course, BJP’s victories in the North East adds more vigour and confidence in it in Maharashtra. If it did, the political equations between warring partners in the state government could dramatically change, but it would surface only just before the next round of elections. Many nuances have to be thought of though Uddhav Thackeray, with Bal Thackeray at his side, did far better than was assumed possible.
That Narayan Rane, who lost two elections including a by-election, and his family hold in Konkan’s southern belt was badly shaken in 2014, continues to be a person of interest to BJP is what politics is all about. That region has been his bastion once cannot be entirely ignored. He can probably create complications for the Sena there in the next elections. But his loyalty appears not to have been taken at face value.
That is why, instead of admitting him into the party, the BJP, sensing the irk of the Shiv Sena, asked him to form a separate party and support the BJP from outside. Which he readily did, obviously because he was as desperately in need of a political umbrella as much as BJP requires to expand its footprint. It had to cater to both him and the Shiv Sena. Which wouldn’t have been the case had BJP been really strong despite the Sena.
Narayan Rane has not lunged at the offer as readily as was presumed and has sought time of about a week – which runs out about now. It is not clear if he wanted a larger arrangement wherein he would be better accommodated in Delhi and his sons too given some more political clout in the state. The entire details of the discussions and likely offers have not yet emerged yet.
However, it is revealing that Mr Rane himself told a Mumbai newspaper that when he met Amit Shah, the BJP chief, in Delhi with Devendra Fadnavis in tow, he was asked about his commitment to the BJP. Apparently, it has been made clear that his ambitions should not be inconvenient to the BJP at any point, for his record shows that Rane’ ambitions made things difficult for him in both the Sena, and later the Congress which he had joined.