The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday nominated Dhananjay Munde, nephew of late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, for the post of Opposition leader in the Legislative Council.
Dhananjay, who rebelled against his uncle a few years ago, is now NCP legislator in the upper house of the state Legislature. The NCP is the largest Opposition party in the legislative Council, and as such will get the Opposition leader’s post.
State NCP president Sunil Tatkare and the party’s legislative wing chief Ajit Pawar on Monday submitted a letter to the chairman of the council Shivajirao Deshmukh, informing him that the party was nominating Dhananjay Munde for the Opposition leader’s post.
NCP sources said the party leadership chose Dhananjay due to several reasons. First, it wants to portray a young Other Backward Class (OBC) leader to woo the OBC community which largely voted for the BJP in the recent Assembly election.
Besides, he hails from Marathwada (central Maharashtra), which is the most important region for the NCP, after western Maharashtra. Further, Dhananjay, who was in the BJP for several years, will come in handy attacking the BJP-led government in the state. His appointment also suggests the friendly relations between the BJP and the NCP could soon be over, as Dhananjay is expected to take an aggressive stand against the government.
The Opposition leaders in Assembly and Council have the status of ministers and occupy key positions in the Legislature to lead the Opposition’s attack against the government.
The other choice for the party was Tatkare, but he was not keen on the nomination, since he is already heading the party state unit. “We wanted to select a young and aggressive legislator to lead the Opposition’s attack against the government in the upper house. As such, we zeroed in on Dhananjay Munde,” said Tatkare.
The decision is also indicative of Ajit Pawar’s influence in the party. So far, the party’s OBC faces have been Chhagan Bhujbal and Jitendra Awhad, both of whom are seen as close aides of party chief Sharad Pawar. However, Dhananjay was brought to NCP by Ajit.
Dhananjay, once known as the right hand of his uncle Gopinath Munde, rebelled against the latter when he chose daughter Pankaja to contest from his Assembly constituency in Beed district, when he shifted to national politics.
An angry Dhananjay quit the BJP and joined the NCP. He contested the recent Assembly elections against Pankaja but lost the same. Pankaja is now minister for rural development in the BJP government.
Sources said the announcement of Dhananjay’s appointment was expected in the Council in a day or two.