Nana Patole.
Nana Patole.

‘Patole may not be top contender for Maharashtra Congress chief’s post’

While there is a tussle among the aspirants for the post of Maharashtra Congress chief, the top contender for the same, Nana Patole, faces a major hurdle now
By Surendra P Gangan, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 01:13 AM IST

While there is a tussle among the aspirants for the post of Maharashtra Congress chief, the top contender for the same, Nana Patole, faces a major hurdle now.

The Congress’ allies in the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition are not keen to face an election for the post of speaker of the state Assembly, if the incumbent Patole resigns for the organisational post, in the party. The MVA allies are wary of facing instability if a few of their members of Legislative Assembly (MLA) resort to cross-voting for the BJP.

Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and even some Congress leaders have reportedly conveyed this to the Congress leadership. NCP leadership also has reservations over Patole because of the strained relations between him and senior NCP leader Praful Patel. In this background, senior leaders Rajiv Satav and Vijay Wadettiwar are now emerging as two strong contenders for the post.

After state in-charge of the party, HK Patil, met Congress legislators and key leaders from Maharashtra in Mumbai recently, to gauge the mood among them for the change of guard in the state unit, the lobbying for the post has intensified. Party leaders from the state have been meeting central leadership in Delhi over the last few days. Former chief minister Ashok Chavan met leaders in Delhi and reportedly batted for state relief and rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadettiwar, who is one of the top contenders for the post.

“Patole could be an ideal face and fits in the criterion finalised by the party for the post. Party high command is expected to hand-pick a non-Maratha from Vidarbha as it wants to send out a message to the electorate. However, none of the ruling parties would want to re-election to the post of speaker. Speaker cannot hold any political post. The MVA has a thumping majority in the lower house, but cross-voting by even a few members could lead to an atmosphere of instability in the coalition. The Opposition BJP would like to grab the opportunity to let ruling alliance down,” said a senior Congress leader requesting anonymity.

Another Congress minister pointed out that there is resistance from the NCP to make Patole state unit chief. “NCP’s key leader Praful Patel is bete noire of Patole, owing to the local politics in Bhandara and Gondia. He would not want Patole to hold the reign of Congress, thus NCP leadership has reportedly started to ensure that the Congress does not handpick Patole,” he said.

Ashok Chavan camp has been reportedly convincing the party high command that the state unit needs an aggressive face like Wadettiwar to face other two ruling parties and Opposition BJP is pitching for Satav to be his successor.

Patole, however, said, “The MVA enjoys a solid majority of about 186 members in the lower house and it has no threat. The deputy speaker was elected unopposed and it could be repeated even in choosing the new speaker if I was given another responsibility. The fear of election for the new speaker cannot prove to be a hurdle for my becoming party chief in the state. I met state-in-charge of the Congress HK Patil during his recent review meetings in Mumbai, and have told him that I was ready to obey party decisions, which are in the interest of the party at large.”

Talking about the resistance from NCP, Patole said that it is good for him if other parties are afraid of him and his party should think about it.

Another question being asked in the party is if any minister was made state unit chief, would he be asked to give up his ministerial berth? “Not necessary. One leader one post is an old formula and in states like Punjab party leadership has appointed ministers to head the state unit,” a senior leader said.

Wadettiwar said, “It is up to the party leadership to decide on this, but I think state chief of the party gets strength if is also in the cabinet.”

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