In a blow to Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane, whose son Nilesh Rane is seeking a re-election from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha constituency, the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP’s) now-dissolved local unit on Monday declared they would support Shiv Sena candidate Vinayak Raut without joining the party.
At a meeting attended by thousands of NCP workers from across Sindhudurg district, the unit said they would openly campaign for Raut.
Moreover, the rift between the Rane faction of Congress and the “original” Congress in the region has widened, with Congress MLC Vijay Sawant from Rane’s home-town of Kankavali now writing to party leaders stating that none of the workers from his group will campaign for Nilesh Rane. Rane loyalists mainly comprise those who defected in hordes when the former CM quit the Shiv Sena and joined the Congress in 2005.
Having won the last election by 46,750 votes, more than half of which were polled in Kankavali, Nilesh Rane’s chances this time around seem hampered by the rebellion by the NCP and the infighting within the party.
At the meeting held in Sindhudurg, the NCP unit minced no words to state that it would go to any extent to wipe out Rane’s presence from the region. Despite assurances by party chief Sharad Pawar and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, local party leaders had all along declined to campaign for the Congress-NCP alliance candidate’s alleging high-handedness by the senior Rane. The decision to campaign for Sena comes in the wake of Pawar dissolving the party’s local unit Sunday.
“Ram Manohar Lohia had once said, ‘Agar Congress party ko samaapt karne ke liye shaitaan se bhi haath milana pade toh woh bhi manjoor hai. This is our motto now (In order to wipe out the Congress, I am even willing to shake hands with the devil),” said Nitin Walke, who was the NCP spokesperson for the region. He added that it was now payback time for Rane who has systematically tried to decimate the NCP in the region.
Deepak Kesarkar, NCP MLA from Sawantwadi, has resigned from the legislature though not from the party. “They can expel me if they wish but just because we have an alliance in Maharashtra, it doesn’t mean I can campaign for an anti-social element who has unleashed a reign of terror in the Sindhudurg. We will do every thing we can to defeat Nilesh and the best way to do that is to campaign for the Sena,” said Kesarkar.
The estrangement is the culmination of a decade-long rift between the alliance partners in the constituency owing to complaints of high-handedness by Narayan Rane.
In a letter to Pawar, NCP’s local unit complained about several issues, including Rane’s role in defection of half of NCP’s zilla parishad members to Congress in 2012, in obstructing NCP’s proposal to construct of railway terminal in Sawantwadi, among others.
Meanwhile, in a letter to state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, Congress MLC Sawant has stated his decision to not campaign for Rane. Thakre had earlier issued a notice to Sawant for lashing out against Rane. In his reply, Sawant said Rane had used his position to own petrol pumps and hotels as well as to usurp land in the district “Due to Rane’s hooliganism, no local representative from the ‘original’ Congress or from the NCP is able to do any work of development,” said Sawant.
“Rane has been doing everything possible to destroy both the NCP and Congress in the region so that he and his family can have a complete sway. I am glad dissidents have decided to back the Sena in the polls in order to out an end to his style of functioning,” said Vinayak Raut, the Sena-BJP candidate from the region.
Of the six Assembly seats in Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, three are with Sena, one with NCP and one with the Congress.