The campaign for the Maharashtra Assembly polls which has entered its last lap, has brought a new addition to the Bhartiya Janta Party with former chief minister Narayan Rane, who is struggling to stay politically relevant in his old bastion of Sindhudurg district in Konkan, on Tuesday. He also merged his outfit Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha (MSP) with the ruling party.

The mercurial leader, who once called the shots in the coastal region from where the Shiv Sena drew its strength in Mumbai, was said to be on the “waiting list” to join the BJP since the last few months. On the occasion, Rane’s elder son Nilesh, a former MP, and his supporters joined the BJP in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Rane’s younger son Nitesh, the sitting MLA from Kankavli seat, is seeking re-election on the BJP ticket. Fadnavis said Rane, who is a Rajya Sabha MP backed by the BJP, is automatically a member of the BJP.

“A few days ago Nitesh Rane joined the BJP, today Nilesh has also joined. Rane saheb is a RS member..He is already a member of the BJP,” he said and praised Rane as an “aggressive and studious leader.” Notably, Rane and Fadnavis ignored the mention of the Shiv Sena in their speeches.

Despite being in alliance with the BJP for the polls, Sena fielded a former Narayan Rane loyalist from Kankavli against Nitesh. Rane’s political journey is guided by opportunism. He had served as chief minister of the Sena-BJP government in 1999, but got expelled from the Sena in 2005 for revolting against Uddhav Thackeray.

Later, he joined the Congress and became a minister. However, he didn’t continue in that party for long owing to his ambition to become chief minister.

In 2017, Rane quit the Congress and formed the MSP, and became ally of the BJP-led NDA. “I am impressed by Fadnavis” style of functioning. I am joining the BJP to ensure speedy development. I want to contribute in my own way to this process,” Rane said, adding development is more important than individuals in the BJP.

(With inputs from PTI)