Mumbai: Top leaders of the ruling
Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra are engaged in a
full-blown verbal slug-fest, amid the campaigning for local
bodies polls this month.
Irked over NCP wooing his former associate Shankar
Kambli, senior Congress minister in Maharashtra, Narayan Rane,
launched a scathing attack on Deputy Chief Minister Ajit
Pawar of NCP yesterday.
Kambli`s entry came close on the heels of induction of
another Congress leader and former legislator, Pushpasen
Sawant, into NCP. Kambli, who left Shiv Sena along with Rane
in 2005, had followed Rane into Congress.
Speaking at a public meeting in Kudal, Rane said Ajit
Pawar and home minister R R Patil criticised him during the
"I am not bothered about Ajit Pawar`s threats," Rane
said, calling him "a faulty tape recorder".
Ajit Pawar responded today, saying Rane had lost his
"balance". "I don`t give importance to his rambling. He has
lost his balance," he said.
Speaking to reporters in Latur, R R Patil also lambasted
Rane, saying the Congress minister was "frustrated" due to the
public support for NCP on his hometurf, the coastal Konkan.
"He cited crime figures in Sangli and Pune (Pawar is from
Pune while Patil is from Sangli district). I want to point out
that at least in Sangli, there is no minister accused of
murder," Patil said.
The rivalry between Rane and NCP is not new. In 2002,
when Rane was in Shiv Sena, NCP workers had staged violent
protests in Kankavli, his hometown in Sindhudurg district,
after the murder local NCP leader Vijay Bhise.
An angry NCP mob had burned down the palatial bungalow of
Rane, who was then the leader of Opposition in the Assembly.
Bhise`s was the second political murder in the area.
Sridhar Naik, Congress candidate against Rane in the Assembly
election, had been murdered earlier.
Rane suffered a setback in the recently concluded
municipal council elections in the region, where NCP won three
Poaching of Kambli is in line with NCP`s aggressive
expansion strategy for the upcoming civic elections.
Rane has been hitting out at Ajit Pawar in his speeches,
and recently even put up posters saying he would "disrobe" the
NCP during the upcoming election.
NCP has already managed to establish a stronghold in
Konkan. In the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg coastal belt, of the
existing 7 assembly seats, NCP won 3 last time, and hopes to
better the tally in 2014 polls.