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Pawar-Thackeray talks spark speculation
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 23
Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with Maharashtra’s revenue minister Narayan Rane on Saturday despite his outburst against Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has sparked off speculation among the Congress party’s friends and foes alike.

The Shiv Sena — party that Rane ditched to join the Congress — and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)- which had wooed him only to be spurned at the last minute- are worried that Rane could cut the ground from under their feet.

The Thackerays are apprehensive that Rane, should he assume the post of Chief Minister, may go after Uddhav Thackeray. Rane has never hidden his antipathy for Bal Thackeray’s heir and has accused him of getting him thrown out of the Shiv Sena. On the other hand, Pawar believes that Rane could play a major role in damaging the NCP.

So, it was natural that Thackeray and Pawar held a meeting today.

Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena MP and party spokesman, said both leaders had a meeting and he was unaware about what transpired.

The meeting comes at a time when both the Shiv Sena and the NCP are unhappy in their respective alliances. Uddhav Thackeray wants to break off from the BJP while the NCP cannot afford Rane at the helm.

Earlier this year, the Shiv Sena had managed to buy time by supporting the Congress’s presidential candidate Pratibha Patil even at the risk of alienating the BJP. The excuse then trotted by Thackeray was that Patil was a Maharashtrian and a woman and the party needed to back her despite her party affiliation. The quid pro quo from the Congress that Rane would be kept at bay for about six months.

Meanwhile, Rane after his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, was quite euphoric. “I have not resigned though I did carry my resignation letter when I met with Soniaji,” Rane said.

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