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Cong in Maha assembly: Thorat is leader of legislative party, Vijay Wadettiwar group leader

Both the posts were held by Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who resigned as the leader of Opposition in the legislative Assembly this March

mumbai Updated: Jun 15, 2019 00:38 IST
Surendra Gangan
Surendra Gangan
Hindustan Times
Balasaheb Thorat,Congress,Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil
Balasaheb Thorat(Hindustan Times)

Just two days ahead of the monsoon session, the last before the Assembly polls, the Congress on Friday appointed senior Congress leader from Ahmednagar Balasaheb Thorat as the leader of the Congress legislative party (CLP). Vijay Wadettiwar from Vidarbha, an aggressive leader who joined the Congress from the Sena in 2006, was appointed the group leader in the legislative Assembly.

Both the posts were held by Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who resigned as the leader of Opposition in the legislative Assembly this March. Departing from tradition, the party this time appointed two different leaders to the posts. Thorat has been seen as Vikhe Patil’s political rival. They both hail from Ahmednagar district and trace their influence to a strong co-operative network.

Mumbai legislator and former minister Arif Naseem Khan has been appointed as deputy leader of the lower house, Basavraj Patil as chief whip, Sharad Ranpise as group leader of upper house and Ramhari Rupanwar as deputy leader in upper house. Legislators KC Padvi, Jaykumar Gore, Praniti Shinde, Sunil Kedar, Yashomati Thakur and Bhai Jagtap have been appointed as whips of the party. The appointments were announced in the letter issued by organisational general secretary KC Venugopal on Friday.

The party is attempting social engineering – appointing leaders from various communities – ahead of the Assembly polls scheduled to be held in October. “Wadettiwar is an other backward class (OBC) leader, while Khan represents minority; Ranpise, Shinde are dalits, Rupanwar is a dhangar (shepherd), and Padvi is a tribal legislator. Basavraj Patil represents the Lingayat community,” said a leader privy to the development.

Mallikarjun Kharge, All India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, said, “We have tried to give everybody a fair opportunity and ensure social justice while appointing leaders in the legislature. The newly appointed leaders will leave no stone unturned to expose the government on its failure on various fronts.”

The Congress is, however, sceptical if the speaker will appoint its leader as the leader of Opposition in the monsoon session. “Appointment of LOP is the prerogative of the speaker, although we will submit our list of leaders and claim the post of Opposition leaders. The speaker may take a few days,” another leader said.

Meanwhile, the NCP has decided not to claim the post of the leader of Opposition to put up united show of opposition. The Congress and NCP’s strength in the lower house has dropped by two each to 40 and 39, respectively. Congress’s Abdul Sattar and Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil have resigned as MLAs, while NCP’s Jaydutt Kshirsagar has resigned after joining the BJP. NCP’s sitting MLA Hanumant Dolas died of illness last month.

Meanwhile, the Congress is unlikely to change the state leadership following the debacle in the Lok Sabha elections where it could win only one seat. There were speculations that the party would replace state president and former chief minister Ashok Chavan ahead of the Assembly polls. “As the appointments have been announced , the change is unlikely,” said a senior leader.

First Published: Jun 15, 2019 00:34 IST