Elections

BJP's Move To Field Navneet Rana From Amravati LS Seat Invites Wrath Of Some 'Mahayuti' Constituents

The BJP's Central Election Committee announced her name as the party candidate for the Amravati seat, and Bawankule said she would file her election nomination on April 4.

BJP's decision to field Navneet Rana from the Amravati Lok Sabha seat did not go well with the Maharashtra ruling allies
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The BJP's decision to induct independent MP Navneet Rana into the party and fielding her from the Amravati Lok Sabha seat has not gone down well with some ruling allies in Maharashtra as they termed the development as "downfall of democracy" and "political suicide".

Rana, who currently represents the Amravati Lok Sabha seat, joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the party's state unit chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule's residence in Nagpur along with her supporters late Wednesday night.

The BJP's Central Election Committee announced her name as the party candidate for the Amravati seat, and Bawankule said she would file her election nomination on April 4.

However, the development has invited criticism not only from the opposition Congress, but also from independent MLA Bacchu Kadu, an ally of the ruling side, and former MP Anandrao Adsul, who belongs to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

Kadu described Rana's candidature as the "downfall of democracy" and said she has to be defeated, while Adsul termed the move as Mahayuti's "political suicide" and announced that even if his party does not support him, he would fight against her as an independent candidate.

Rana had won the 2019 Lok Sabha election as an independent candidate against the undivided Shiv Sena's then MP Adsul from the Amravati constituency. However, soon there were allegations against her of submitting a fake caste certificate.

On June 8, 2021, the Bombay High Court said the 'Mochi' caste certificate submitted by Rana was obtained fraudulently using fabricated documents. It had also imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on the Amravati MP.

Last month, The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on her plea challenging the high court's verdict cancelling her caste certificate.

Of the six assembly seats under the Amravati parliamentary constituency, the Congress won Teosa and Daryapur seats in the 2019 assembly elections, while the Prahar Janshakti Party (PJP) led by Bachchu Kadu won Melghat and Achalpur seats.

In 2019, the PJP extended its support to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. However, after the Shiv Sena split in June 2022, he sided with the Eknath Shinde-led camp.

Kadu has opposed Rana's candidature. Her husband Ravi Rana, an independent MLA who has always extended his support to the BJP, won the Badnera assembly seat in the 2019 elections, while Sulbha Khodke of the Congress won the Amravati seat.

Although Khodke won as a Congress candidate, her husband is a close aide of NCP chief and state deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who is a part of the Mahayuti alliance.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, PJP chief Kadu said, "Rana's candidature indicates the downfall of democracy. She has to be defeated. Her husband had ransacked the local BJP office in the past. He had even ridiculed the district guardian minister of Amravati. What can be more unfortunate for the party supporters than to campaign for her?"

When asked whether his party would contest the general elections, he said, "We will support a better candidate in this election, and you will see our decisive role in that candidate's victory. We will not support her (Rana's) candidature, who practises authoritarianism in the constituency."

The Congress has fielded its sitting MLA Balwant Wankhede from the Amravati Lok Sabha seat.

Adsul, who has always opposed Rana's candidature, told reporters, "I will contest against her for sure. If my party (Shiv Sena) does not support me, I can challenge her as an independent candidate. Fielding her on a BJP ticket when everyone is against her is a political suicide."

"I am not going to campaign for her. There is no question of supporting her in any way," he said.

Talking to reporters on Thursday, Navneet Rana said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a call for winning more than 400 seats. I want the Amravati constituency to be one of them."

Commenting on Adsul and Kadu's opposition, saying, "They are very senior to me. I wish all the constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) remain united and support my candidature. I need the support of people for the development of this area."

She said she would meet Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai.

Reacting to a question related to her caste certificate controversy, she said, "A woman's struggle starts even before her birth. I have served the area for the last 12-13 years...My struggle will continue and I am prepared for it."

Rana started her career as an actor in the Telugu film industry. She jumped into politics and contested her first Lok Sabha election from Amravati in 2014 on NCP's ticket, but could not win. She won the seat as an independent candidate, defeating incumbent MP from Shiv Sena Anandrao Adsul by a margin of 36,951 votes.

A political analyst said, "Rana could win the seat because the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) candidate received 65,135 votes. Adsul got 4,67,212 votes in 2014 and 4,73,996 in 2019. It means some of the votes which could have gone to him got diverted to the VBA, paving the way for Rana's maiden victory."

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Apart from her caste certificate row, Rana also kicked up a controversy in May 2022 when she and her husband tried to chant Hanuman Chalisa outside the residence of the then Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai.

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