Former Congress leader Narayan Rane Sunday launched Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh, his new political party, promising to work closely with the ruling BJP in Maharashtra. Rane was forced to float the regional outfit after he quit the Congress, following strong reservation within the BJP over his induction in the party. Since he has made it clear that Congress and Shiv Sena are his main political rivals, the BJP may accommodate him in the grand alliance led by it in Maharashtra, though the party is non-committal on immediately giving him a cabinet berth.
Explaining the objective of his new party, Rane said, “We will focus our politics on development, and work for the common people.” In a clear departure from his aggressive politics, the Konkan strongman said, “We are not going to adopt double standards like the Shiv Sena, which is playing both ruling and opposition role.”
Exercising utmost caution not to antagonise the BJP leadership, he said, “If there are any issues where things are going wrong, I can always discuss it with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.” Conceding that there were some hurdles that might have worked against his entry into the BJP, Rane said, “We would like to ally with the NDA at the Centre and in the state.”
Batting in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bullet train project, Rane slammed Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, questioning their understanding of development projects. Taking a dig at old rival Uddhav, he said, “Some people feel if you target the top leadership (read the PM), you become bigger too.”
Rane added: “Now, Raj says, we will not allow a brick to be laid for bullet train. Go ahead, who has stopped? My party will not protest any project for sake of politics. I support bullet train. The project would be financed by a Japanese company. It does not affect our budget, nor our projects.” He, however, expressed reservations over the manner in which demonetisation was implemented.
A close aide of Rane said, “Though we have launched the party, building a new organisation is a formidable task. In the last elections, out of 12 assembly seats in Konkan region, the Congress (under Rane’s leadership) could win only one. The Congress also lost both the Lok Sabha seats.”
The general opinion in the political circles is that the litmus test for Rane’s regional party would be to work with the BJP’s grassroot workers in Konkan where Shiv Sena has the stronghold. Rane appears determined to continue his war of words against the Congress and the Shiv Sena leaderships till the 2019 elections. He reiterated how AICC high command Sonia Gandhi, and senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Margaret Alva had promised to make him the chief minister of Maharashtra but did not keep their word.