Former Congress Chief Minister Joining BJP ?

Sindhudurg (Maharashtra), Sep 18 The Maharashtra Congress experienced jitters as senior leader and former Chief Minister Narayan Rane stepped into rebel gear on Monday amidst speculation that he would join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

However, keeping his options close to the chest, Rane said he would announce his future course of action only on September 21, the first day of the nine-day Navratri festival.

Addressing a massive rally of his supporters at Kudal town in his home district Sindhudurg, an aggressive Rane said to thunderous applause: “I am not saying anything today. I will give the breaking news in phases. On September 21, I shall announce my decision.”

His statements came a day after the Rane trio — Narayan Rane and sons Nilesh and Nitesh — launched separate scathing attacks on state Congress President and former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and AICC General Secretary Mohan Prakash for abruptly dissolving the party’s Sindhudurg District Congress Committee which had Rane supporters.

“It is sad that the Congress High Command is not taking any cognizance of the party developments in this state. Ashok Chavan is going all out to wipe out the Congress,” roared the 65-year-old former Shiv Sainik who joined the Congress in mid-2005.

Rane was the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance Chief Minister for a year when it ruled the state between 1995 and 1999.

The crowds cheered him, with slogans of “Narayan Rane Aage Bado, Hum Tumhare Saath Haia”.

Simultaneously, both Rane siblings also spoke and criticized the state Congress leadership on various counts and how it had failed to capitalize on various issues to consolidate itself.

In recent months, Rane has met BJP President Amit Shah and even Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on a couple of occasions in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, sparking off rumours of his imminent exit from the Congress.

Fadnavis made it a point to visit the Maratha strongman’s Mumbai home during the recent Ganeshotsav festival.

Though the BJP fuelled the speculation by announcing it would welcome Rane with open arms, Rane had dismissed them as mere rumours.

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