Starting out in the Congress. Patole had cut his teeth as a Zilla Parishad president from Sakoli in Bhandara Gondia district in 1990 before rising to become an MLA in 2004. He switched to the BJP in 2014 before returning to the Congress again in 2018.
No diplomat, the 56-year-old Vidarbha politician is outspoken. As a BJP parliamentarian, he was the first party member, and perhaps the only one, to complain in 2016 about the domination of the party by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The protest made privately and publicly was a shock to the organisation where no one speaks against the leader.
Patole, who hails from the dominant OBC Kunbi community, was not unmindful of the consequences. Perhaps he was laying the ground for an exit from BJP to return to the Congress.
In 2004 and 2009, he contested the assembly polls as Congress candidate successfully to become an MLA from Sakoli constituency. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections he left the Congress and contested as an independent candidate. The decision came after Congress-NCP refused to consider him for Lok Sabha and instead picked Praful Patel as their candidate for Bhandara Gondia.
Although Patole lost the elections to Patel, he had polled sizeable votes which caught the BJP’s eye. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls he was BJP’s official candidate from Bhandara Gondia against Congress-NCP’s Praful Patel. He made national headlines as a giant killer for defeating Patel.
His detractors attributed his win to the Modi wave rather than his own popularity. After the huge victory, he was expecting a ministerial berth at the Centre, but the BJP chose candidates such as Nitin Gadkari and Hansraj Ahir over him. His unfulfilled ambition to become a minister in the Modi government is said to have fuelled his disappointment with the saffron party. Back home in Maharashtra, he started criticising then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for failing to address farmers problems.
It was only after many deliberations and in-house protest from Vidarbha region that the Congress decided to take Patole in back in the party. He was an anti-Modi and an anti-Fadnavis voice which worked to their advantage.
In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Congress fielded Patole against Union Minister Nitin Gadkari from Nagpur. While he lost the General Elections to Gadkari, six months later he won the Maharashtra Assembly polls from his home constituency Sakoli. He defeated BJP’S Parinay Phuke, a close associate of Fadnavis.
In the Maha Vikas Aghadi, he was keen on getting a ministerial role, but the Congress decided to field him as a Speaker nominee to maintain the balance of power between various regions as most of the top NCP and Congress leaders hail from western Maharashtra. His election as Speaker has also cleared the path for the NCP to take over the post of the deputy chief minister in the Sena-led government. This was also the Congress’ way to express their gratitude to this man who was first to rebel against Modi.
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