Even as BJP and Shiv Sena finalise the power-sharing deal in the government, a battle is on the cards between former allies Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) over the post of the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly.
NCP on Wednesday staked claim to the post, in both the state assembly and council. Though NCP, which is the leading party in the legislative council, has a clear claim to the post, it has 41 legislators in the assembly, one short of the Congress.
“We had an alliance with the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi as well as independent MLA Ravi Rana and that takes our tally of legislators to 45,’’ said Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson.
The party has also argued that with five of Congress’ MLAs facing suspension for two years, the strength of the party is effectively 37, and so NCP’s claim will be valid.
The Congress waved off the claim. “We have always maintained we will sit in the Opposition and we also have the seats. NCP has been switching sides. If they are tacitly supporting opposition, how can they claim the post?’’ said state Congress president Manikrao Thakre.
“This ruse of using suspension of our party MLAs only shows a tacit pact between BJP and NCP to not allow any kind of effective opposition in the Assembly. It’s a complete mockery of legislature if NCP is allowed to go ahead with this claim,” said Dr Raju Waghmare, party spokesperson.
Congress group leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil is likely to get the Leader of Opposition post, if the Speaker recognises Congress as main opposition party. Sources said the NCP’s claim is legally untenable. “No party can claim the support of the independent MLAs or members of other parties,” said an official.
An NCP source admitted the party is trying to build pressure on Congress ahead of the winter session. “It will help us in further negotiations for the post of the chairman of the legislative council. The Congress is just 7 members short and would be in position to oppose us for the post,’’ he said.