In no mood to reconsider his decision to quit the Prithviraj Chavan-led Maharashtra Cabinet, sulking senior Congress leader and Industries Minister Narayan Rane on Sunday mounted further pressure on the party’s high command over his demand of being projected as the chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Assembly polls in the state.
Even as the party leadership has already declared that the polls in October would be fought under Chavan’s leadership, Rane said this would prompt a repeat of the Lok Sabha election debacle, where the party was nearly wiped out of Maharashtra — Congress had won just two of the 26 seats it contested in the state.
However, it seems that the Congress leadership is unlikely to submit to Rane’s “pressure tactic”. Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Chavan, state party president Manikrao Thakre, and former Union Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in New Delhi on Sunday. Thakre said the “deliberations primarily centred around the party’s preparations and action plan for the polls”. Though he conceded that the Rane issue was briefly discussed, he added “it did not form the core of the meeting”. Sources said the leaders also discussed seat-sharing arrangements with ally Nationalist Congress Party.
A senior Congress leader, on condition of anonymity, said the party leadership was aware of the anti-Rane atmosphere in the Konkan belt.
Interestingly, Rane’s much-touted three-day tour of the Konkan region to drum up support for himself failed to achieve the desired results with “a not so impressive” turnout at his rallies in the region, sources said. Rane’s close supporters — former Legislative Council member Rajan Telli and Kaka Kudalkar, who hail from Konkan — did not attend any of his events.
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On Saturday, Rane suffered a massive setback when another close aide and Thane corporator, Ravindra Phatak, switched over to Shiv Sena with six other corporators. A source present at Sunday’s Sindhudurg rally said that barely 600 people attended Rane’s rally.
Rane is scheduled to call upon Chavan to tender his resignation from the council of ministers on Monday, following which he would hold a press conference.