Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday invited former chief minister Narayan Rane to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Rane, who on Sunday formed a new political party—Maharashtra Swabhimani Paksha—after quitting the Congress, denied Fadnavis discussed a ministerial berth with him. “I had detailed discussions with the chief minister who has invited my party to join the NDA. I have told him that I will decide in two days," Rane told reporters after a nearly two-hour meeting with Fadnavis.
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said Rane’s entry into the NDA would not affect the party’s relationship with the Shiv Sena, another NDA constituent. There was no immediate reaction from Sena, with which Rane has a running feud for a dozen years.
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Bhandari said the BJP believed in expanding the NDA, and Rane’s entry should not be seen as a ploy against the Shiv Sena. “As we make new friends, we don’t forget our old and time-tested alliances and friends. Shiv Sena is an old ally and it need not see any signs of trouble in Rane’s entry, if at all he decides to join," Bhandari said.
Rane was expelled from the Shiv Sena in 2005 after bitter differences with Uddhav Thackeray, who was then Sena’s working president. Rane has not stopped criticizing the Shiv Sena since then, and the Congress liberally deployed him to attack Thackeray in particular.
As speculation about Rane joining the BJP or forming a new party to enter the NDA gathered pace, the Shiv Sena had indicated that it won’t be happy with the move.
Rane, 65, quit the Congress last month along with his elder son Nilesh, a former Congress member of parliament from Ratnagiri in his Konkan stronghold. Rane’s younger son Nitesh, however, continues to be a Congress MLA. A few days back, Rane met BJP president Amit Shah but described the meeting as a courtesy call to invite Shah for the inauguration of a hospital in Konkan.