MUMBAI: Having inducted former Maharashtra CM Narayan Rane as a cabinet minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet on Wednesday, BJP seems to have lost hopes of joining hands with Shiv Sena again. It has decided to expand and strengthen the base of the party in Maharashtra on its own ahead of BMC polls.
Rane is a mass Maratha leader in the Konkan belt. He started as a local Shiv Sena Shakha president and became the chief minister. After the rise of Uddhav Thackeray, Rane left Sena and joined Congress. Now, he is a Rajya Sabha member of BJP, which wants to use him as a trump card against Sena.
BJP has also given an opportunity to MP Kapil Patil. Besides, Bharati Pawar, BJP MP who belongs to the tribal community, and BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Bhagwat Karad have also been made part of the cabinet.
This decision to induct Rane, Patil, Pawar and Karad clearly shows BJP is not only eyeing social engineering, but also preparing for a fight against Sena in its strongholds like Mumbai, Thane and Konkan. Rane has significant influence in the Konkan region.
“Dropping Prakash Javdekar and inducting Rane means the leaders who can expand the party base have been given importance ahead of the BMC and 2024 Lok Sabha polls. BJP has decided to strengthen the hand of Rane so that he can fight against Sena. Rane is a known and strong voice against Sena. When he was taken in Congress and given the revenue ministry, Congress had pitched him against Sena. There are few leaders who can take on Sena and its fierce and aggressive cadre. Rane is one of them. The BMC elections will be the litmus test for Rane’s leadership,” said a political observer.
The cabinet expansion has also ended the talk of elevation of Devendra Fadnavis in the Centre after losing power in Maharashtra. However, the BJP leadership decided to keep Fadnavis in the state and provide mass leaders like Rane with his support so that the party can fight strongly against the three-party alliance.