Marking a comeback for senior Congress leader and former chief minister Narayan Rane, the party on Saturday fielded him for the June 10 biennial elections to the Maharashtra legislative council.
The elections have been necessitated by the retirement of 10 sitting members, among them heavyweights like two ruling Shiv Sena ministers – Subhash Desai and Diwakar Raote, leader of opposition Dhananjay Munde and chairman Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar, both from Nationalist Congress Party.
The 64-year old Rane’s entry is expected to strengthen the vocal power of the Congress and the opposition in the legislative council where the NCP is in a dominant position.
A staunch Shiv Sainik, Rane was chief minister in the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance government of 1995-1999, and later served as the Leader of Opposition from 1999-2005.
However, he quit the Shiv Sena in a huff in 2005 following major differences with then newly-appointed executive president Uddhav Thackeray, and later joined the Congress.
Though hopeful of heading the state again, Rane’s grouse was he was repeatedly overlooked by the Congress and lost out successively to Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan for the CM’s post.
Swallowing his pride, he continued as a minister in various Congress governments since then handling important portfolios.
However, he lost the 2014 assembly elections from his home turf in the coastal Konkan and later even an aggressively contested 2015 assembly by-election from Bandra, and generally maintained a low profile since.
The council members retiring are: Dipti A. Chavdhari, Saiyad Muzaffar Hussain, Subhash R. Desai, Ramraje P. Naik-Nimbalkar, Shobha M. Fadnavis, Prakash S. Binsale, Dhananjay P. Munde, Vinayak T. Mete, Diwakar N. Raote, Vijay K. Sawant.
Constrained by the current electoral arithmetics, the four major parties constantly at loggerheads, the ruling BJP-Sena and opposition Congress-NCP, are likely to hug and cooperate in both elections – to the council on June 10 and for six Rajya Sabha seats on June 11 – for mutual political benefits.