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On stage with Uddhav, Rane heaps praise on CM, Gadkari

Published On : 24 Jun 2017   |  Reported By : Courtesy: The Hindu   |  Pic On: photo credit: The Hindu

Mumbai, (The Hindu): In an unexpected meeting, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and senior Congress leader Narayan Rane, a former Sena man who fell out with party founder Balasaheb Thackeray, shared stage after 12 years at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Mumbai-Goa Express Highway. The function was held in Kudal in the Konkan region, a traditional Rane stronghold.

The function was marked by sloganeering by Sainiks and Congress supporters, which is expected to continue in the run-up to the Assembly elections in October 2019. Though Mr. Rane said politics should not be mixed up with development projects and all parties should support such projects in his address, he and Mr. Thackeray were seen avoiding eye contact on stage.

Political watchers said Mr. Rane, who lost from Kudal Assembly constituency in the 2014 elections, has been trying to get close to the BJP, and pointed to the the public display on Friday. Mr. Rane, who was expelled from Shiv Sena in 2005, spoke in glowing terms about Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who were present at the event.

They also noted that Mr. Thackeray reconciled to Mr. Rane’s presence at the function, despite the fact that the departure of the Maratha strongman fractured the Sena’s strength. They said the Sena chief realises the BJP could play Mr. Rane against them in the future.

Last week, BJP president Amit Shah responded to a question on Mr. Rane joining the BJP saying, “Let him approach us first.” Interestingly, posters in Kudal showed Mr. Rane welcoming Mr. Fadnavis and Mr. Gadkari to Sindhudurg, but did not feature any other Congress leader.

Claiming that the BJP is keen to take over the Sena’s traditional voters, a senior BJP leader said regional party cannot ignore the results of the recently-held local body elections, in which the BJP has done well, especially in the Konkan region.

In the elections to 25 Zilla Parishads, the BJP won 10 while the Sena had to informally ally with the Congress after the elections. In Sindhudurg, the Congress won both ZP president posts, while the Sena bagged both ZP president posts in Ratnagiri.

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