Hinting that senior Congress leader Narayan Rane’s much-awaited switch to the BJP is close, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil today said he would not only “welcome” Rane in the BJP fold but could also hand him over his PWD portfolio. Rane, the former Shiv Sainik-turned-Congressman has been in sulk for long time. The speculation that he may embrace the BJP got a fresh boost after he reportedly met the BJP president Amit Shah in April this year. Rane had dismissed the reports.
Patil is perhaps the first senior leader who has made an open statement on welcoming Rane in the BJP. “I would welcome Rane if he chooses to join the BJP. It is a fact that the decision will be finally taken at the top leadership in New Delhi and Rane himself. I can even hand over my portfolio of PWD to him,” Patil said in Sindhudurg district, the pocket-borough of Rane, a former chief minister of the state.
He said the BJP will benefit from Rane’s entry. “It will also help in the smooth administration of the state BJP government,” the minister said in an apparent reference to Rane’s roots as a Shiv Sainik and that he might come handy to rein in the intractable ally, Shiv Sena. Patil is the second most senior minister in the state Cabinet after the chief minister.
Meanwhile, Patil said BJP president Amit Shah is scheduled to visit Mumbai this week. Though Shah is expected to carry out a review meeting with the state BJP workers, Patil’s statement vis-a-vis Rane assumes significance. “Shah in his recent address to the party workers had said that his aim is to win 350 seats in next Lok Sabha polls for which resourceful persons like Rane will be helpful,” a senior BJP leader said.
Interestingly, Congress MLA and Rane’s son Nitesh yesterday changed his WhatsApp status that reads: “Narayan Rane is the only party for us”. Rane, who had served as the chief minister during the first tenure of the NDA government, suffered electoral setback in his home turf of Sindhudurg district in the Assembly polls. He is currently a Congress MLC.
Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Ashok Chavan last week said that some people are “opportunists” who cannot stay without power, the remarks perceived as a swipe at Rane. He had also said that new people will get a chance to grow if “such people” leave the Congress.