Mumbai: In the coastal district of Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, allies Shiv Sena and the BJP are pitted against each other and both of them seem to be flexing their muscles.
Although Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has tried to downplay the rift by calling it a "friendly fight", the situation on ground is anything but that.
As part of the seat-sharing talks, the Kankavli seat went to the BJP. Although coastal Maharashtra is the traditional stronghold of the Sena, the BJP now wants to make inroads in the region and the former has reluctantly given in.
The Sena had requested the BJP to name a candidate from its own party. Instead, the BJP inducted Narayan Rane’s son, Nitesh Rane, from the Congress and fielded him from the seat.
An agitated Sena handed the B-form to Satish Sawant who had already filed his nomination as an independent candidate. Upset by the move, the local BJP leadership has backed independent candidates in Kudal and Sawantwadi against the Sena's nominees. Both the independents are close to Narayan Rane, the Sena leadership has alleged.
“We will win on all the three seats. Even during the Lok Sabha elections, Rane had supported an independent candidate. Certain things refuse to change, irrespective of the circumstances. This is a battle between Rane and the Shiv Sena and we will show him his place. This isn't about the BJP, but we are upset that its local leadership has come under Rane's influence. We had clearly told the BJP that we are okay with any candidate it fields in Kankavli. But we will not campaign for the party if it gives a ticket to a Rane. The BJP went ahead and did exactly that. There is no way we can campaign for him,” Vinayak Raut, Shiv Sena MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, told News18.
In Sawantwadi, the Sena has yet again given a ticket to Minister of State for Home (Rural) Deepak Kesarkar.
“The Konkan region has always been with the Shiv Sena. This is not the Shiv Sena vs the BJP. We are against Rane. Rane as a mentality is a threat to Konkan. And we are concerned about the region's wellbeing. We have shown him his place in the past. We will do it yet again this time,” he said.
The rivalry between the Ranes and the Sena is an old one. Ever since Narayan Rane shifted loyalty from the Sena to the Congress and he targeted party chief Uddhav Thackeray, party workers have been irate.
Although the BJP's original plan was to keep a check on the Sena by inducting Rane, it had later changed its mind. Last year, Rane had formed the Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksha in the hope of joining the BJP immediately. A year later, the BJP had still kept him on hold in an indication that its relationship with the Sena was on a firm footing, before giving him the party ticket.
Thackeray and Fadnavis are expected to hold rallies for their respective candidates in Kankavli in the coming week.