Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday appointed Patidar leader Paresh Dhanani as leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in the Gujarat Assembly. Dhanani, 41, will be the first Patidar MLA from the Congress to be appointed Leader of Opposition. He will also be the youngest Congress leader to assume the office.
The decision to appoint Dhanani came after senior party leaders held wide-ranging consultations with the 77 elected MLAs earlier this week. Though Dhanani was considered a frontrunner for the post, senior Congress MLAs like Koli leader Kunvarji Bavaliya and Vikram Madam had also reportedly staked claim for the post during the two-day meet of the party. At the end of the meet, all the party MLAs passed a resolution authorising Congress president Rahul Gandhi to choose the CLP leader.
“A young, dynamic leader has been chosen by the party high command as the Leader of Opposition. He will take all the Congress MLAs along and make the party stronger in the Assembly… He has been chosen for the post considering his work as a Congress secretary and experience as MLA for the last two terms,” state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said after Dhanani’s name was announced.
Dhanani, who has been elected as an MLA for the third time — and second consecutive time from Amreli — is said to have played a crucial role in the Congress’s performance in the Patidar-dominated Saurashtra region, from where the party bagged 28 of the 48 seats. Two days ago, Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel had also voice his support for Dhanani as CLP leader.
“The decision has not been taken on the basis of caste or religion. He has been chosen after MLAs gave their opinions,” said party’s Gujarat in-charge and former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot. Dhanani will replace 73-year-old Mohansinh Rathwa, a tribal leader who has won the Assembly election for the tenth time now. Rathwa had been made the Leader of Opposition in July, following the resignation of Shankersinh Vaghela.