Different parties, Sainiks in key positions | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Different parties, Sainiks in key positions

Aug 07, 2023 12:35 AM IST

Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar was Shiv Sena spokesperson. He quit the party to join the NCP and later switched to the BJP and contested assembly elections. Wadettiwar was in Shiv Sena and quit the party alongwith Nayaran Rane when the latter walked out with a bunch of MLAs to join the Congress in 2005. Though Rane later shifted to the BJP, Wadettiwar stayed on in the Congress.

With Congress legislator Vijay Wadettiwar being selected as the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, there is a strange coincidence. The top three positions in the state assembly are occupied by former or current Shiv Sena leaders: Speaker Rahul Narwekar, chief minister Eknath Shinde, who is leader of the house, and Wadettiwar.

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Narwekar was Shiv Sena spokesperson. He quit the party to join the NCP and later switched to the BJP and contested assembly elections. Wadettiwar was in Shiv Sena and quit the party alongwith Nayaran Rane when the latter walked out with a bunch of MLAs to join the Congress in 2005. Though Rane later shifted to the BJP, Wadettiwar stayed on in the Congress.

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Unlike the other two, Shinde did not quit the Sena. He just split it. Though he is no longer in the Shiv Sena headed by Uddhav Thackeray, he has managed to get the tag of the original party from the Election Commission of India (ECI). Speaking after his selection, Wadettiwar paid tributes to Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray saying sainiks groomed by him are occupying key positions though from different parties. There is another coincidence. The state cabinet has the present and past Shiv Sena leaders as ministers from all the three parties. Food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal (NCP Ajit faction) and revenue minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil (BJP) were in Shiv Sena in the past.

Changes on the cards in Congress?

For the second time, Sangramsinh Thopte missed his chance to get a key position in legislature. The Congress legislator from Bhor in Pune district was a frontrunner for the post of Opposition leader in the assembly but missed out to senior colleague Wadettiwar. Thopte ticked all the boxes: A Maratha leader, senior Congress legislator from western Maharashtra and a non-controversial politician with a clean slate. However, the party top brass chose Wadettiwar.

It is said that Thopte had obtained signatures of several Congress MLAs supporting him which probably irked the party top brass. Though Congress was in power from 1999 to 2014, Thopte did not get a ministerial berth.

In 2019 as the MVA was formed, he was considered for the post of Speaker of the assembly but that went to Nana Patole. His name was again heard as Patole resigned to become state Congress president in 2021. However, before Congress could get its legislator re-elected as the Speaker, the MVA lost its majority. This time, he was hopeful of the opposition leader’s post, but party top brass surprised everyone by picking a leader who has profile similar to its state president Patole.

Like Patole, Wadettiwar too comes from Vidarbha region and is an OBC leader. Now, there are speculations that Patole could soon be removed, or his wings could be clipped with a party leader from central Maharashtra or western Maharashtra being given a significant role to play in terms of finalising seat sharing with allies and identifying candidates in the coming elections.

Unease continues in NCP camps

Throughout the session, a section of NCP MLAs did not sit in the assembly most of the time. They did not want to be seen with either of the rival factions of the party. They have been assessing the situation back in the constituency and also weighing their options with assembly elections barely a year away. Both factions have refrained from clearly announcing how many MLAs are with them.

It is no longer a secret that Ajit faction has been trying to get some more MLAs from the Pawar faction to its side. Significantly, even senior Pawar is aware of the same. In a recent meeting with his aides, Pawar remarked that he won’t be surprised if a few of the remaining MLAs too made their way to the Ajit faction.

Meanwhile, over the weekend there were rumours that two senior MLAs who were ministers in the MVA government could defect from Pawar faction to the rival camp. On Saturday, state NCP chief (Pawar faction) Jayant Patil told the mediapersons that he was not in talks with either the BJP or the Ajit faction. Well, the season of defections seems to be far from over.

When Ajit sat in Shinde’s chair

During a ground-breaking ceremony to build a new hostel for legislators at Nariman Point, the host—Narwekar—got deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar to sit in the chair meant for chief minister Eknath Shinde who could not make it to the function. Narwekar had Fadnavis sitting on the left side and there was an empty chair to his right. Narwekar requested Ajit to shift to the empty seat which the latter did. Before Ajit could sit, Narwekar quickly removed the sticker put on the seat, which said “honourable chief minister”. An alert Narwekar probably avoided another controversy…

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Shailesh Gaikwad is political editor and heads the political bureau in Hindustan Times' Mumbai edition.In his career of over 20 years, he has covered Maharashtra politics, state government and urban governance issues.

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