Updated: February 6, 2021 8:50:34 am
The Congress on Friday appointed Nana Patole as the president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. Patole’s appointment comes a day after he resigned as the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly. Soon after taking over, Patole said that his intent was to turn the Congress into the “Number 1” party in the state.
“The Congress president has appointed Nana Patole as the new president of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee,” the party said in a statement. Patole will replace Balasaheb Thorat, who had an 18-month stint at the helm of the state Congress and is presently Maharashtra’s revenue minister.
The party, meanwhile, also appointed six working presidents as part of its organisational rejig. “I will live up to the faith and trust shown in me by party leaders. My aim is to turn the Congress into the Number 1 party in the state,” Patole said.
Patole’s decision to resign from the Speaker’s post on Thursday days before the start of the Maharashtra Assembly’s budget session had caused consternation amongst the constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government including the NCP and the Shiv Sena. With his resignation set to force an election for the Speaker’s post, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had said that it would have been better had Patole resigned after the budget session. The BJP is presently the single largest party with 105 seats in the 288-seat Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.
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Patole brushed off reports that his resignation had caused a strain in the relationship of the MVA allies. “My leader Sonia Gandhi had a word with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on this issue. Even I and our state leaders had met the CM and Deputy CM to apprise them of what was going to happen. This is an internal decision of the party and there is no reason for anyone to feel offended. The MVA government is a stable government and it will complete its entire five year tenure,” Patole said.
Six working presidents have also been appointed in an apparent attempt to set right the caste and regional balance in the party. The six include Basavraj Patil who hails from the Lingayat community and comes from Latur district in Marathwada. Shivajirao Moghe, tribal representative from Yavatmal district in Vidarbha. Mohamed Arif Naseem Khan as representative of the Muslim community who hails from Mumbai. Kunal Rohidas Patil is the Maratha representative who hails from Dhule in North Maharashtra, while Praniti Shinde and Chandrakant Handore are the Dalit faces. Of the six only Shinde and Patil are MLAs.
It has also appointed 10 vice presidents including former Rajya Sabha member Hussain Dalwai.
With the 57-year-old Patole at the helm, the party high command will look to him to bring some spunk into the otherwise staid leadership of the Maharashtra Congress, which has not been able to match up with its more aggressive alliance partners NCP and Shiv Sena.
Patole, a four time MLA, has had his share of party hopping making his electoral debut in 1999 on Congress ticket in the Maharashtra Assembly. He subsequently moved 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. He took up suo motu a breach of privilege motion against the then Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta for not responding to communication from the Legislature on 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.
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