Inducting Narayan Rane in state cabinet may prove dear to BJP

Mumbai: Even as the former Congress leader Narayan Rane is all set to be inducted into the state cabinet after he quit the party, a degree of resentment is seen in the BJP parleys. Several BJP functionaries including senior ministers say the party risks losing the goodwill of voters who elected it to root out corruption.

Around Diwali, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis indicated that Rane would be brought into the state cabinet. Last week, Fadnavis told The Indian Express newspaper that a cabinet reshuffle would take place soon and that some non-performing ministers would be dropped to make way for new faces.

A senior BJP minister who is close to party national president Amit Shah told Mint, on condition of anonymity, that “Rane’s induction is a matter of a few days only”. The same minister, however, conceded that some serving ministers and party cadres were “sulking” over what they saw as the BJP’s “unnecessary favour to Rane”.

“There is some sense of personal political insecurity among some ministers because Rane will have to be given a significant portfolio which means at least one minister will lose his. The ministers and cadres are also sullen over this rehabilitation of Rane who they don’t see as bringing substantial benefits to the party or the government,” the minister said.

Rane, a former chief minister, on 1 October formed a new political party called Maharashtra Swabhimani Paksha and soon joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The Shiv Sena, which is part of the NDA, publicly cautioned the BJP against inducting Rane. Before he joined the Congress in 2005, Rane was with the Shiv Sena and was expelled after a bitter war of words with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
The Sena-Rane bitterness lingers even after 12 years. At least two Shiv Sena leaders—Ratnagiri MP Vinayak Raut and Maharashtra minister of state for home Deepak Kesarkar—have asked the BJP not to include Rane. Raut told reporters on Monday that Rane was keen to enter the cabinet to scuttle an Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe into his assets.
The Shiv Sena’s caution also stems from speculation that the BJP, if it inducts Rane, could use him against the Sena. “If the BJP plans to do this, it must think twice. The BJP, which says it has high regard for Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray, must remember that Rane had hurt Balasaheb. We have been allies for nearly 25 years and there are certain principles which should not be violated,” said a senior Sena minister requesting anonymity.

A BJP official, who did not want to be named, said there were two thoughts within the party over this speculation. “Some cadres and ministers feel that Rane would be a good weapon to use against the Sena. But the other section feels this would be stretching it too far and giving the Sena a legitimate grouse when Rane’s has limited productivity,” said the BJP functionary.

He agreed that some cadres were uncomfortable with Rane’s past. “As it is, we have inducted several corrupt persons from Congress and NCP. That has done some damage to our pre-election intent to fight corruption,” he added.