With the BJP and the Shiv Sena almost firming up a pact for the general elections, former Chief Minister and BJP MP Narayan Rane announced on Friday that he has decided to contest the Lok Sabha poll independently.
The announcement came a day after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil held seat-sharing talks with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence.
In Mumbai on Friday, Rane announced that his party, the Maharashtra Swabhimaan Paksha (MSP), will enter the Lok Sabha race. He had floated the party in October 2017, after quitting the Congress. He also declared that his elder son and former MP Nilesh Rane will be his party candidate from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg seat.
While addressing a party workers’ rally in Bandra’s Rangsharda, Narayan Rane said: “Alliances are being discussed on both sides (referring to the Congress-NCP and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance). But we won’t go with any of them. We will fight on our own.”
Ironically, the Congress is willing to exchange the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg seat with the NCP. Sources in the NCP said the party, if offered the seat, is open to an “understanding” with Rane’s party. In 2014, Nilesh, then a Congress candidate, had lost the seat to Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Raut. Later, Rane also tasted defeat at the hands of the Shiv Sena in the subsequent Assembly poll.
While the Konkan strongman has lost some clout in the region, Narayan Rane, a known Uddhav baiter, is still seen as someone who can pose the strongest challenge to the Shiv Sena in the Konkan constituency. Taking a dig at the Fadnavis-Uddhav meeting on Thursday, he said on Friday: “Discussions were ongoing at the time when the country was mourning the death of our jawans (in the Pulwama attack). This angered me.”
Mounting another offensive against Thackeray, Rane said: “They (Shiv Sena) were cursing the BJP until yesterday, and now, they are back discussing an alliance. Have they any shame? They are taking the Marathi voters for granted.” While Narayan Rane hinted at plans to contest some more Lok Sabha seats, party sources said MSP might contest only one seat this time.