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Rane may face local opposition in electoral battle

Arunkumar Bhatt

Resistance from units of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party likely


  • The seat fell vacant when Rane resigned from the Assembly and joined the Congress
  • With Rane's defection, almost the entire Sindhudurg unit of the Shiv Sena broke away from the party to be with him
  • Rane's supporters like Teli expect him to secure 80 to 95 per cent of the votes

    KANKAVALI: : The Malvan-Kankavali Assembly constituency is all set for an electoral battle between former Sena leader Narayan Rane, now in the Congress, and Prashuram Uparkar, Zilla Parishad member of the Shiv Sena. While the Sena faces an uphill task, Mr. Rane has to deal with resistance from the local units of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.

    The seat fell vacant when Mr. Rane resigned from the Assembly and joined the Congress. He is now Revenue Minister and also the guardian minister of Sindhudurg district in which the Malvan-Kankavali constituency falls. The guardian minister controls the entire administration and all development projects in the district.

    With Mr. Rane's defection, almost the entire Sindhudurg unit of the Shiv Sena broke away from the party to be with him. "All 30 members of the Shiv Sena in the Zilla Parishad saving one are with Mr. Rane and so are all members of the Taluka Panchayat," says former ZP president, Rajan Teli.

    Still licking its wounds, the Shiv Sena had no choice but to field its sole surviving member of the ZP, Parshuram Uparkar. As a result, instead of setting up its electoral machinery, the party is busy forming its units and sub-units in the district that used to be the core of its base in the coastal Konkan region of Maharashtra.

    Mr. Rane's supporters like Mr. Teli expect him to secure 80 to 95 per cent of the votes. But Mr. Rane would not concede even the remaining fraction of five per cent. "Why should we give five per cent to him when I have worked all 100 per cent," he asserted at a Congress rally held here to felicitate AICC general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Margaret Alva and Maharashtra Congress president, Prabha Rau. Both were instrumental in luring Mr. Rane to the Congress. However, the NCP and even a section of the Congress could play the spoilsport. Mr. Rane was linked with two political murders in Kankavali — the killing of Sindhudurg district Congress president Shreedhar Naik in 1991 and NCP taluka president Satyavijay Bhise in 2002. While Mr. Rane was acquitted in the Naik case, 18 of his supporters, all former Shiv Sena members and Mr. Teli, are facing trial for the Bhise murder. The initial trial, which started on October 20, is expected to run almost concurrently with the poll campaign. That is not a comfortable situation for the Minister. The accused, now on bail, are active in the Rane camp.

    While the NCP announced its support to Mr. Rane as per the seat-sharing agreement between the two parties, its Sindhudurg unit and the State leaders declared that their partymen who were key witnesses would tell the court the truth.

    "Naik and Bhise were fighting Rane's terrorism and we are struggling against it for the past 14 years for he has changed his party but not the activity," said Kankavali town municipality president, Sandesh Parkar, a veteran local NCP leader who had contested against Mr. Rane in 1999.

    NCP stand

    Asked if the district NCP would support Mr. Rane, he said he would follow the party directive. Mr. Parkar feared that the NCP would be Mr. Rane's target in the post-poll scenario. "The coastal belt of Konkan has 75 seats in the Assembly and it can decide who will be the next chief minister and, hence, we cannot ignore the emerging factor."

    Apart from the NCP's reservations, not all Congressmen and women are happy with the newcomers from the Shiv Sena whom they fought all along, often physically, and suffered. A lot will also depend on how the Shiv Sena runs its campaign and appeals to its traditional constituency.

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