Narayan Rane keeps everyone guessing 

As of now, the 66-year-old Rane, considered an able administrator, is a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP quota — and recently BJP president Amit Shah had included him in the party's manifesto committee. (DH File Photo)

Amidst talks of the BJP and Shiv Sena having an alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, former Maharashtra chief minister and Konkan strongman Narayan Rane seems to be surprised and in two minds.

There are also reports that he may come back to the Congress, however, the state leadership of the Rahul Gandhi-led party seems to be divided over the issue.

As of now, the 66-year-old Rane, considered an able administrator, is a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP quota — and recently BJP president Amit Shah had included him in the party's manifesto committee.

Rane was the chief minister in the erstwhile Shiv Sena-BJP saffron alliance government in 1999 and later when the Congress-NCP Democratic Front came to power, he took over as the Leader of Opposition.

However, in 2005, he was expelled by Shiv Sena supremo late Bal Thackeray for raising a banner of revolt against Uddhav Thackeray.

Apparantly, he was promised the post of chief minister which never materialised. In 2018, he resigned from the Congress majorly owing to differences with former chief minister Ashok Chavan and floated Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha (MSP) and joined the NDA. Subsequently, he was given the Rajya Sabha berth.

A few days ago, Rane met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and conveyed that MSP would contest three seats.

Rane's older son Nilesh is expected to contest the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha seat, which he represented during 2009-14 but was defeated by Sena's Vinayak Raut during the Narendra Modi-wave. His older son Nitesh is a Congress MLA from Kankavli seat. "We have said earlier that MSP would contest some seats on its own," Rane said. 

Meanwhile, the Sena and the BJP mending ties made him uncomfortable. 

On the other hand, senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, said that Rane may come back to Congress. "He is not comfortable with the BJP now... he may come back to Congress," Thorat said.

However, Chavan had denied any such development. "Thorat spoke to me and there is no talk of re-induction of Rane in Congress," said Chavan, the state Congress president.

Rane, a mass leader, has tremendous following in the coastal Konkan belt of Maharashtra.

It may be recalled that after he left the Congress and joined the NDA, he was in the forefront of defending the bullet train project — the brainchild of Modi — and countered Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his estranged cousin and MNS president Raj Thackeray, who had spoken against the project.

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