With Narayan Rane inducted in Modi’s cabinet, BJP eyes Maratha vote bank

Express News Service
MUMBAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision of inducting former chief minister Narayan Rane in his cabinet is a strong message that the BJP wants to shed its traditional Brahmin-Baniya party image in Maharashtra and plans to foster a strong Maratha leadership.

The BJP’s chief ministerial pick in the last assembly and current leader in the House, Devendra Fadnavis, is a Brahmin. But after the party lost power, many OBC and other communities started drifting away from it. The negativity against the party has been rising under Fadnavis. Hence, the BJP decided to do expand its vote base beyond Brahmin and Baniya voters.

During the time of Gopinath Munde, the BJP’s leadership was in the hands of OBC. After the rise of Fadnavis, it has been unable to test any major success despite using all resources. That’s another reason why the party has now decided to strengthen the hands of Rane, a Maratha. BJP sources said from now on, along with Fadnavis he will have a major say in party affairs.

Maharashtra has more than 30% Maratha population. The state’s politics has been always dominated by Maratha leaders such as Yashwantrao Chavan and Sharad Pawar. “The BJP also has Maratha leaders like Ashish Shelar and Chandrakant Patil, but they have their limitations. By inducting Rane, the party aims to wean away Maratha votes in upcoming polls,” said a senior leader.

Apart from Rane, the PM has inducted three new faces from the state: Kapil Patil, Bhagwat Karad and Bharati Pawar. Except for Karad, all three have switched to the BJP from other parties. Patil and Pawar were with the NCP earlier. 

“This is a positive message for outsiders who are in the BJP: that positions are not only given to old and loyal members but also to new entrants provided they are hardworking, aggressively take on the opposition and expand the party base,” said a political observer. “During the last assembly polls, many Congress and NCP leaders joined BJP and got elected. But BJP could not form a government. These  MLAs are unhappy and may consider leaving the party. BJP hopes the message that those who bring benefits to the outfit will be appropriately rewarded will not be lost on such leaders.”