Updated: February 6, 2021 11:07:59 am
On Friday, the Congress undertook an organisational rejig in Maharashtra, appointing Nana Patole, who had resigned a day earlier as speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly, as the new state unit chief. A look at what precipitated this rejig and what it means for the triumvirate of the Shiv Sena, Congress and the NCP, which currently rules Maharashtra.
Why Congress has gone for a rejig in Maharashtra
Once a major political force in the state, the Congress finds itself as the juniormost partner in the NCP-Shiv Sena-Congress alliance that rules Maharashtra. Nearly 14 months into the formation of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government, the three parties have so far put up a united front despite pulls and pressures within. And yet the tension within is unmistakable with every party jockeying for the lead position and expanding its base in the state. In an attempt to revive the party in the state, the Congress has been tinkering with the idea of replacing the incumbent president Balasaheb Thorat with a more spirited leader over the last couple of months. The fact that Thorat holds the dual post of revenue minister in the MVA government as well as helming the state unit of the party had caused a degree of disgruntlement within the party.
What organisational changes has the Congress brought about in Maharashtra
After detailed discussions in Delhi, the party Thursday asked Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Nana Patole to resign from his post and on Friday appointed him as the state party president. It has also decided to persist with its model of appointing multiple working presidents for the second time in a row. It has appointed a total of six working presidents in a bid to set the caste and regional balance right. The six include Basavraj Patil who hails from the Lingayat community, Shivajirao Moghe who hails from the tribal community, Mohamed Arif Naseem Khan is the Muslim representative, Kunal Rohidas Patil is the Maratha representative, while Praniti Shinde and Chandrakant Handore are the Dalit faces.
Who is the new president and what does he bring to the table
The elevation of 57-year-old Patole will bring in some spunk into the otherwise staid and unadventurous leadership of the Maharashtra Congress. Patole, a four-time MLA, has done his share of party-hopping making his electoral debut in 1999 on Congress ticket in the Maharashtra Assembly. He crossed over to the BJP in 2009. In 2014, fighting on a BJP ticket, he defeated former union minister Praful Patel in his bastion Gondia. He, however, became one of the first BJP MPs to speak out against Prime Minister Narendra Modi which led to his ouster from the BJP forcing his return to the Congress fold in December 2017. In the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, he had unsuccessfully contested against Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. Subsequently, he went on to win from the Sakoli Assembly Constituency in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections on a Congress ticket.
His stint as Maharashtra Assembly Speaker has been eventful having suo moto taken up breach of privilege motion against the then Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta for not responding to communication from the Legislatureon issues raised by members. Days before resigning as speaker he had also asked the state legislature to frame a law to give voters the option of using ballot papers besides EVMs in the local governing bodies’ poll and state Assembly polls.
What does the rejig mean for the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar are said to be upset that the Shiv Sena and the NCP were not consulted by the Congress before Patole’s resignation. The development, which comes ahead of the crucial budget session of the state legislature, will necessitate a fresh election for the Assembly Speaker’s post. While the post-poll coalition holds the majority in the House, the BJP is the single largest party in the legislature. The MVA allies fear that the speaker’s election will once again create scope for the BJP to destabilise the government. The Sena and NCP have also dropped indications that they could claim stake to the speaker’s post. “The Speaker’s post is that of alliance. Patole has conveyed to all of us that he has stepped down for his party. He has decided to take on party responsibilities. This is between him and the Congress.” NCP chief Sharad Pawar had said in response to a question on who could be the next speaker.
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