NARAYAN RANE: Strongman who frequently attacks those in power
Narayan Rane, 62, has always been outspoken, something that has worked both for and against him. One outburst against then Maharashtra chief minister Manohar Joshi led to the Shiv Sena replacing Joshi with Rane, who remained chief minister for all of eight months from December 1998 before the Sena-BJP lost in the subsequent elections. In the Congress, he has been made to pay for outbursts, one against Sonia Gandhi leading to his expulsion before the party reinducted him for want of strong leaders.
It has been an eventful life within and outside politics since he arrived from the coastal region of Konkan to make a career in Mumbai. He started a roadside poultry in the badlands of Chembur, the eastern suburb of Mumbai, and earned such notoriety that then Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray referred to him as an ordinary thug. Later, it would be Thackeray who would appoint him chief minister.
“Tell me Narya when you roamed the streets of Chembur showing off your aggression, did you ever imagine that you will become Maharashtra’s chief minister?” Thackeray once said in an interview to Saamna, recounting a conversation with Rane. “He said no without thinking twice. ‘You have made me what I am today and I’d have been killed in an encounter had it not been for the Shiv Sena’.”
After the poultry business, Rane had joined the income tax department but his clout in Chembur ensured that Thackeray, looking for men with potential, inducted him into the Sena.
With Thackeray as mentor, he became a corporator in Bombay of the 1980s, then chairman of Bombay Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) which then had a budget of over Rs 1,500 crore. His adeptness with handling finances and raising money for the fledgling Sena drew him closer to Matoshree, the residence of the Thackeray family.
Rane was appointed one of the men who would expand the Sena’s footprint in Konkan. It was an effort that saw him being slapped with various cases, including of murder. This was after he had fought the assembly election from Kudal in 1990 and won. He was made an accused in the murder of Sindhudurg district Congress president Shreedhar Naik in 1991, and was later acquitted. A decade later came the murder of NCP Taluka president Satyavijay Bhise, for which close associates of Rane are facing trial.
“Recently during local corporation elections, goons were sent to the hostel of my daughter in Goa to intimidate me. This is the type of politics they want to practise,” says Sawantwadi MLA Deepak Kesarkar, who recently quit the NCP for the Sena, and who was once close to Rane but is now his bitter rival.
In 1995, the Sena rewarded Rane by making him minister for dairy development and fisheries, and later giving him revenue. But he had set his sights on higher things. Aware continued…