Narayan Rane: The Konkan Politician With Many Lives

Narayan Rane never shied away from making known his political ambitions.

Narayan Rane is a former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, serving only for a short period.

New Delhi:

If political flexibility is everything, Narayan Rane's far ahead on the ideological arc than most of his contemporaries. The 69-year-old's entry into the Union cabinet in a BJP government today marks another of his many milestones on this path.

The new Union minister, known for his earthy speeches and ambition, has by now been part of most key parties dominant in his corner of the world -- the Shiv Sena, the Congress, and now the BJP.

While his base -- a strong one at that -- lies in Maharashtra's Konkan coast, Mr Rane flagged off his political life in Mumbai with the son-of-the-soil Maratha party as a teenager in the 1960s. He entered the Maharashtra Assembly in 1990 as a Sena MLA.

Between 1996 and 2014, as a minister in various state governments, he handled portfolios like industry, revenue, dairy development, animal husbandry, and fisheries.

The pinnacle came in February 1999 when he was sworn in as Maharashtra's 13th Chief Minister, although only for a short while -- the Shiv Sena-BJP combine lost the state election held only months later.

In 2005, Mr Rane parted ways with the Shiv Sena following irreconcilable differences with its founding family, the Thackerays. Over the years, his rivals have linked him to several incidents of violence, claiming his involvement in the murder of a Sena worker and some other crimes in Konkan's Sindhudurg district, PTI reported.

After quitting the Sena, he joined its ideological rival, the Congress, and was made state Revenue Minister under Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

In the 12 odd years he spent with the Congress, he was suspended at least once, for six years, only to be reinstated by chief Sonia Gandhi after he apologised for rebelling. He rarely shied away from expressing his chief ministerial ambitions.

In 2017, he left the Congress one last time -- he said he had joined it in the first place on assurance of being put in the top position in six months.

He next founded his own party, the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha, with his two sons, Nilesh and Nitesh, as his key generals.

It must be noted that, with rare exceptions, Mr Rane kept winning elections from his Konkan stronghold all through this.

However, the MSP never managed to fire on all engines. By 2019, the veteran leader was ready to merge it with the next big party on his radar: the BJP.

He did so despite strong opposition from the Sena, which was then still an alliance partner of the BJP. A year earlier, he had already been sent to the Rajya Sabha by the party.

With both his sons, too, now firmly settled in the BJP, Mr Rane can now add this new ministerial feather to his already heavy cap. So what if it is slightly tilted?

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