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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

As he weighs poll battle decision, Goa Congress veteran gets ‘life-long’ cabinet status from BJP govt

🔴 The Congress has once again declared Rane, who will soon be 83, as its candidate from the Poriem constituency, where he has been undefeated over the last five decades.

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Panaji |
Updated: January 7, 2022 5:44:17 am
Goa Congress, Pratapsingh Rane, Pramod Sawant, BJP government, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Goa news, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsFormer Goa Chief Minister and 11-time legislator Pratapsingh Rane (File)

Amid uncertainty over former Goa Chief Minister and 11-time legislator Pratapsingh Rane contesting the Assembly polls, the BJP government in Goa Thursday decided to grant “life-long Cabinet status” to the Congress veteran in recognition of his service to Goa over 50 years as a legislator in the state.

“Mr Pratapsingh Raoji Rane, former Chief Minister and former Speaker (of the Goa Legislative Assembly) has completed 50 years as a legislator. The cabinet has decided that in future also those, who complete 50 years and hold posts like CM and Speaker, like Pratapsingh Rane, will be given the Cabinet status even after their retirement.” Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said.

But ahead of the legislative assembly polls slated for next month, there is a lot riding on Rane’s “retirement” — which he is yet to formally announce.

The Congress has once again declared Rane, who will soon be 83, as its candidate from the Poriem constituency, where he has been undefeated over the last five decades.

The veteran’s decision to contest another election, however, was unpalatable to his son Vishwajit Rane, a BJP MLA from the neighbouring constituency of Valpoi, who has insisted that his father must now “retire gracefully”.

If not, said the junior Rane who joined the BJP in 2017, he will contest the Poriem seat from the BJP and defeat his father “who has no connect” with the youth in his constituency.

The father-son feud is yet to be resolved. While BJP leaders have claimed that the senior Rane will not contest the upcoming elections, the man himself has not put the issue to rest.

On the announcement made by the Chief Minister, Pratapsingh Rane told The Indian Express: “They have recognised my 50 years’ service. Perhaps, the government thought it best to do it. I have not asked for it.”

Meanwhile, Vishwajit Rane, the state health minister, thanked his cabinet colleagues for giving  his father lifetime cabinet status. “There is no greater way to honour his 50 years of public service as Chief Minister, Speaker, and MLA. This is a very special gesture, I thank CM Dr Pramod Sawant for having conferred this recognition on my father. On behalf of the people of Sattari and Usgao, I express my gratitude to the Chief Minister and the entire cabinet,” Vishwajit Rane wrote.

About the Assembly elections, the dates for which are expected to be announced soon,  Pratapsingh Rane said: “I have not made up my mind. It’s up to the people (of the constituency) and my family members. I have already done 50 years. How long does one live in India?”

Goa Pradesh Congress Committee President Girish Chodankar said, “The BJP is desperate and struggling before election. The BJP has been targeting our senior leaders Pratapsingh Rane and Digambar Kamat (the two remaining Congress MLAs) in some way or another, spreading rumours about them. Now this is a new move. This is unheard of. We don’t know what they have announced is legal or illegal, constitutional or unconstitutional. But BJP is desperate and it can do anything. He (Rane) commands the respect of poeple like noone else and he has a place in the hearts of the people of Goa. In 50 years he has an unblemished record. His loyalty to the party is undoubted. He is a royal and upright man. These things are too small for a man of his stature. He will not fall prey to these things.”

Pratapsingh Rane started his political journey in 1972, first from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) but he has been with the Congress for the last 45 years. The senior Rane, first became an MLA in 1972. He has been a legislator for 50 years, of which he has spent 45 in the Congress. He was first elected as an MLA of the third legislative assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu in 1972 from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) till 1977. He later joined the Congress and was appointed Chief Minister in 1980, followed by five other stints as CM. He served twice as the Speaker of the Goa legislative Assembly and twice as the leader of Opposition.

The senior Rane, the longest serving legislator in Goa, commands respect across parties and is known for his polite demeanor. He was the first in his family to join politics and served as the Chief whip of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party in his early political career before he joined the Congress. While he has never lost an election in 50 years, he has been elected from the Poriem assembly constituency since 1989 after Goa was granted statehood. Prior to that he represented the Sattari assembly constituency in the erstwhile assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu.

It was in Rane’s Chief Ministership that Goa transitioned from being a union territory to a state. Goa got its statehood in 1989. In 1996, again when Rane was Chief Minister, he introduced the Goa Public Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 1996 the Goa legislative assembly that paved the way for offshore casinos in Goa. Prior to that casinos were permitted only in five star hotels. He has been Goa’s longest serving Chief Minister over six terms including a one month stint.

Interestingly, even in the Chief Ministership of Manohar Parrikar in 2000, Rane, a Congressman, served as the Speaker of the legislative assembly.

Rane, who persued his higher education in Pune, later got his degree in Business Administration from the US. An equestrian sportsman, he also participated in amateur horse-races in Mumbai and Pune and also in Rodeos of Texas. He was also a three-time boxing champion and a physical training instructor in Pune University during his student days.

His son Vishwajit, followed in his father’s footsteps in politics and is a four-time MLA who remains undefeated in his counstituency of Valpoi, also in the Sattari taluka. He won the 2017 legislative assembly poll from the Congress but resigned soon after when the party, despite winning 17 seats in the 40 member assembly, failed to form the government. He then joined the BJP and contested the bypoll in Valpoi on a BJP ticket, winning the seat for the party.

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