A day after BJP Rajya Sabha MP Narayan Rane was inducted into the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, both BJP and Shiv Sena leaders denied his inclusion in the Narendra Modi-led government was intended to slight the Sena.
Rane, known for his constant verbal duels with Shiv Sena, was the first newly-inducted minister to take oath on Wednesday. He has served as the chief minister of Maharashtra as well as in various state ministries in the past 25 years. This is his maiden entry into the Union Cabinet.
“Rane is a senior BJP leader and his inclusion in the ministry has nothing to do with his relation with Shiv Sena. He has not been included in the ministry because of his verbal assault against the Sena but because he had been an able chief minister of Maharashtra,” said BJP leader Raosaheb Danve, who, too, has retained his berth in the Union Cabinet, which was expanded on Wednesday.
Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “Rane has been picked on the basis of his ability and it has nothing to do with the Shiv Sena.”
Shiv Sena chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut told The Indian Express, “I don’t think Rane has been included in the ministry to slight Shiv Sena. It is the Prime Minister’s privilege who to include in his ministry and who to leave out,” he said.
When asked if this will widen the already soured relations between BJP and Shiv Sena, Raut said, “The question does not arise at all. They (BJP) are treading on their path, we have taken our own path. We are now part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government and they are continuing with the NDA,” said Raut.
Raut also denied that he had met BJP leader Ashish Shelar recently in a bid to improve BJP-Sena ties. “I did not meet BJP leader Ashish Shelar…these are false speculations,” he said.
After taking oath, Rane refused to say whether his inclusion has been done as a riposte to the Sena. “I don’t know whether I have been included in the ministry to blight Shiv Sena…But one thing is certain, I have taken oath as the minister…I have served as MLA for six terms and have been the chief minister of the state,” he said.
Rane was in the Shiv Sena until 2005, when he joined the Congress. During the BJP-Shiv Sena regime in 1995-99, he had served as the chief minister for a year after the resignation of Manohar Joshi. Besides Rane, three other MPs from Maharashtra, including Kapil Patil, Dr Bhagwat Karad and Bharati Pawar, all made it to the Council of Ministers.
Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari said Rane’s inclusion into the ministry will backfire on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Rane is like a zilla parishad block leader. He was a nobody before Balasaheb Thackeray made him a chief minister. He stabbed the man who made him big…Whereever Rane goes, he creates a mess…The Modi Ministry will meet the same fate,” said Tiwari.
Meanwhile, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, while welcoming the inclusion of four MPs in the ministry, said the non-exclusion of Pritam Munde, who won the last Lok Sabha seat by the highest margin of votes in the country, and the inclusion of Dr Bhagwat Karad, is an attempt to embarrass the family of Gopinath Munde, who was the “bahujan” face of the BJP.
“The Cabinet expansion has done injustice to the Munde family…At least Pritam Munde, the record breaker, should have got an opportunity,” said NCP state spokesperson Umesh Patil, adding that out of the four MPs who were given ministerial berths, three have NCP-Congress background while only was an original BJP leader.
Patil, however, said Rane’s inclusion in the ministry has to do with his seniority and that he has also served as the chief minister. “Rane’s inclusion as well the inclusion of three ministers from Maharashtra is a welcome decision. We are happy with the PM’s move to do justice to Maharashtra,” he said.
Describing the Cabinet expansion as a meaningless exercise, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “The expansion of the Modi Ministry is nothing but adding a few more heads to shift the blame of unprecedented failure. Shaky economy, skyrocketing inflation, women being humiliated, unemployed and helpless youth, angry farmers, soldiers in danger, growing terrorism in Kashmir, the third Covid-19 wave and impending disaster are some of the issues the country is facing today. In such a situation, the issue of Cabinet expansion is meaningless because no matter how many masks are changed, the truth cannot be hidden. The truth is that this government is being run by only one-and-a-half people. One Modi and half Amit Shah! Rest are musical chairs!”
At his first press conference after taking the oath, Rane said, “I will live up to the confidence shown by the Prime Minister and the party in me. I am grateful to the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the party president for making me a minster.”
Rane blamed the Maharashtra government for the failure to get reservation for the Maratha community. “The Maharashtra government is to be blamed for Marathas not getting reservation…” he said. On being the first to take the oath, Rane said it could be because of his seniority and that he had served as the chief minister.