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Mumbai: Congress rejig on cards, Patole frontrunner for state chief’s post

As it reshuffles its unit in the state where it is now in power, the party has chosen to go with the formula of appointing one president and five working presidents to set the caste and regional balance right.

Written by Sandeep Ashar |
February 4, 2021 9:24:12 am
Mumbai assembly elections, Mumbai polls 2021, Mumbai congress, Mumbai congress chief, BJP Mumbai, Mumbai city news, Indian Express

Failing to project a single face in Maharashtra, the Congress has decided to persist with its model of appointing multiple working presidents for the second time in a row.

As it reshuffles its unit in the state where it is now in power, the party has chosen to go with the formula of appointing one president and five working presidents to set the caste and regional balance right. In July 2019, the last time when Congress revamped the party leadership in Maharashtra, it had opted for the same model.

Sources in the party said that Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Nana Patole (57) is the firm favourite to succeed Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat as the state party chief. While Congress MP Rajeev Satav, who is a close confidante of Rahul Gandhi, was also in the race, sources said Patole had inched ahead.

With the latter camping in New Delhi on Wednesday, there was intense speculation through the day that an official announcement was imminent. But sources said that differences within the party over the probables for the five working presidents posts may have forced a postponement of the announcement.

A section of senior Congress leaders from the state are apparently miffed at not being consulted while shortlisting the candidates for the five posts.

Last month, AICC Maharashtra in charge H K Patil was in Mumbai to hold consultations with the party’s ministers and legislators regarding the proposed reshuffle, but the visit was cut short with consensus eluding the gathering. Just as names of three serving MLAs – Praniti Shinde, Kunal Patil and Kailas Ghorantiyal – Rajya Sabha MP Hussain Dalwai and former minister Vasant Purke began doing the rounds for the key posts on Wednesday, sources said that some senior state leaders raised objections to some of the names.

While Patole, who had returned to the Congress after a stint with the BJP, hails from Vidharbha and belongs to the politically dominant OBC Kunbi community, Praniti, the daughter of former chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde, is an Dalit face from western Maharashtra.

Kunal Patil, son of former state Congress chief Rohidas Patil, is a Maratha who represents north Maharashtra’s Dhule Rural seat in the state Assembly, Ghorantiyal, who hails from Marathwada, belongs to the minority community. Vasant Purke is from the Scheduled Tribes and Dalwai is a Muslim face in the party.

Facing opposition from within the party for holding multiple posts, Thorat, who also heads the Congress Legislative Party, has offered to step down as the state party chief. Patole will have to step down from the Speaker’s post if he becomes the state party chief, necessitating the appointment of a new Speaker to the Assembly.

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