Days after quitting the Congress, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane on Sunday launched a new party called 'Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh', and indicated his organisation may align with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
"I have just launched the party. I am waiting for some people to join, then I will decide the future course (of action)," the 65-year-old tough-talking leader, who has pockets of influence in the Konkan region, told a press conference in Mumbai.
Rane, who served as the chief minister in 1999 when he was in the Shiv Sena, hinted that his outfit might be veering towards the BJP camp.
"I have friends there, so I have no issues with the party (BJP). Let me first make new friends for my party, and then I will be able to announce my next move."
Asked if he aspires to become the chief minister, he said, "I still have an ambition to become the chief minister of Maharashtra. It never dies. I will wait for the right time to come."
He said he or his new party will never oppose any development work, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious bullet train project.
The BJP's saffron ally Shiv Sena has been critical of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. The criticism has become increasingly strident following the stampede on the narrow foot overbridge linking Parel and Elphinstone Road stations that claimed 23 lives recently.
Earlier, there was speculation that Rane may join the BJP as some reports suggested that he had met party president Amit Shah in Ahmedabad a few months ago and later in New Delhi.
However, a section in the BJP was learnt to be not in favour of Rane's induction into the party.
The Shiv Sena's threat to review its continuance in the Maharashtra government was also seen as a hint to the BJP not to take Rane into the party fold. The Shiv Sena has been bitterly critical of Rane, who had objected to Uddhav Thackeray's elevation in the party.
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had expelled Rane from the party following which the Maratha leader joined the Congress on July 26, 2005. He was made the revenue minister in the then Congress-NCP government in the state the very next day.
Rane's son Nitesh, an MLA known for his strongarm tactics, had launched 'Swabhimani Sanghatana' around a decade back. His organisation was often locked in confrontation with the Shiv Sena. Senior Rane borrowed the name for his new party from his son's organisation.
Asked about the future of his son's outfit and his own party, Narayan Rane said, "Now, both would become one entity. The Swabhimani organisation will be a part of the political party."
Rane had resigned from the Congress last month after accusing the party having reneged on the promise of making him the chief minister when he had joined it 12 years ago. He had also resigned as a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council.
Asked if he would contest the election for the seat that has fallen vacant following his resignation, Rane said he would take a call after the Election Commission announces the schedule.
Rane also criticised Uddhav, saying "Everyone in Shiv Sena, except for Uddhav Thackeray, is my friend. He hardly understands any issue and keeps criticising BJP leaders and their decisions. It is due to his leadership that the party has been widely ridiculed."
"I have similar equations with Ashok Chavan (the state Congress chief). Except for him, everyone in Congress is my friend," he said.
Photograph: Sahil Salvi for Rediff.com