NEW DELHI: Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane is prominent among the BJP leaders commissioned to secure a majority for the Devendra Fadnavis government in the state -- for the prime reason that he has spent a long period in both the Shiv Sena and the Congress.
Rane, currently a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha, still has cordial personal relations with leaders and legislators of his two former parties. When he had exited the Congress in 2017, he had commented that "my friends are everywhere. Except for Uddhav (Thackeray) in the Sena and Ashok Chavan in the Congress, all are my friends."
Enabling a majority for the BJP government, formed by the sudden, surprise defection of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar on Saturday, will be Rane's way of discharging his debt to his new party for sending him to the Rajya Sabha in 2018, despite strong opposition from its then alliance partner, the Shiv Sena.
And during the run-up to the October 21 Assembly elections, Fadnavis had arranged for the merger of Rane's Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh with the BJP.
After President's Rule was imposed in Maharashtra on November 12, Rane had said that he will strive to his utmost for a BJP government, doing whatever was necessary since "Sam, Dam, Dand, Bhed (advice, allurement, threats, subversion)" was taught to him by the Shiv Sena.
He had asserted that he will only have to arrange 40-45 MLAs, so that the BJP, which has 105 legislators, can get a majority in the 288-member assembly.
Associated with the Shiv Sena right from his youth, he had been chosen as the Maharashtra Chief Minister in 1999 by its founder Bal Thackeray himself, instead of Manohar Joshi.
However, Rane never hit it off with Uddhav Thackeray, whom Bal Thackeray was grooming as his successor, and his continuous criticism of the younger Thackeray's capability led to his expulsion from the party in July 2005.
Rane then joined the Congress and became the Revenue Minister in the Prithviraj Chavan government. However, he was expelled from the party in 2008 for speaking out against the leadership but was reinducted later after he apologised.
However, in December 2017, Rane, feeling his ambitions crippled in the Congress, left it to form his own party, and gradually drew close to the BJP.
However, due to Sena's antipathy, his outfit's merger with the BJP remained hanging till Fadnavis forced it through on October 15. So helping Fadnavis stay in power will mark repayment of another debt for him.