NCP workers refuse to campaign for Rane, boycott Pawar rally

Ratnagiri (Maharashtra): In an unprecedented show of indiscipline, around 400 NCP workers Sunday refused to campaign for Congress candidate Nilesh Rane and also boycotted party chief Sharad Pawar’s election rally here in Maharashtra.

Rane, elder son of Congress leader and state Industry Minister Narayan Rane, is contesting from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha constituency in coastal Konkan region.

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Prior to Pawar’s rally for Rane, the rebel Nationalist Congress Party leaders and activists gave a grand welcome to the union agriculture minister when he arrived here.

Pawar reportedly gave an earful to rebel NCP legislator Deepak Kesarkar, who was leading the anti-Rane brigade. Following this, Kesarkar tendered his resignation as legislator.

The party also slapped a show-cause notice to Kesarkar, asking him to explain his anti-party activities.

The embarrassed NCP leadership was left with no option but to sack district party chief Bala Bhise and replace him with Victor Dantes.

Bhise and Kesarkar had openly declared that “come what may, no campaign for Rane” and had requested Pawar not to address the rally.

“It is unfortunate that some of my party activists are refusing to campaign for the UPA candidate (Nilesh Rane). The national interest must remain supreme before any differences among alliance partners,” Pawar said at the rally, also attended by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

“We have issued him (Kesarkar) a show-cause notice and suitable action will be taken accordingly,” Pawar said.

State NCP executive president Jitendra Awhad warned that rebellion or anti-party activities “would not be tolerated and would be dealt with a firm hand”.

Since the start of the election season, barring minor skirmishes, the Congress-NCP combine has been unitedly campaigning for their respective candidates all over the state.

Burying old differences, Sharad Pawar even shared the dais with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at a rally in Vidarbha last month.