Amid the Patidar crisis in the ruling BJP, Patidar MLA Paresh Dhanani has emerged as the frontrunner for the post of the leader of the Opposition in the Congress. The Congress, which won 77 seats in the recently concluded Assembly elections, is yet to decide on its new Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader. Last week, the Congress leadership appointed senior leaders Ashok Gehlot and Jitendra Singh as observers to elect the new leader of the legislature party.
With most of its senior leaders — Arjun Modhwadia, Siddharth Patel and Shaktisinh Gohil — biting the dust in the polls, the Congress is looking for a new face. Former CLP leader, Mohansinh Rathwa, who won from Chhota Udepur by a slender margin of nearly 1,000 votes, is being ruled out because he is 74.
Sources in the Congress said that 41-year-old Dhanani, who defeated the BJP’s Bavku Undhad by over 12,000 votes in Amreli, has emerged as the strongest claimant for CLP leader’s post.
Dhanani, who made his debut in the Gujarat Assembly in 2002 as the youngest MLA at 26, got elected for the third time to the House. As one of the four working presidents of state Congress, Dhanani played a pivotal role in planning party president Rahul Gandhi’s campaign, especially in Saurashtra from where the party won 30 seats. After 2012, he emerged as the most popular Congress MLA owing to his performance in the Assembly as he raised a number of issues pertaining to farmers’ issues.