Jayant Patil(HT File)
Jayant Patil(HT File)

Jayant Patil appointed as Maharashtra chief of Nationalist Congress Party

By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 29, 2018 11:51 PM IST

In the run-up to the general elections next year, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has appointed its senior leader Jayant Patil as the chief of the party’s Maharashtra unit.

This is seen as a tactical move by NCP chief Sharad Pawar to retain a grip over the party and ensure there is no parallel rise of leadership challenging his daughter and party MP Surpiya Sule, who is believably set to play a major role in state politics in the coming years.

In addition, by replacing Sunil Tatkare, another senior leader, who is an OBC (Other Backward Class) leader, Sharad Pawar is also attempting to woo the Maratha community, which had deviated from the party in recent local body polls. The leadership within the party believes its strong base is the Maratha voters, especially from western Maharashtra. By appointing a Maratha leader from Western Maharashtra, the party has attempted to revive its traditional vote bank. In addition, Tatkare, who is close to Ajit Pawar, also faces allegations in the irrigation scam.

Patil is close to senior Pawar and Sule, who believably played a key role in new replacement. Pawar and Sule held a couple of meetings with Patil in the past few days before an official announcement on Sunday in Pune.

The party convention was held at Pune, Patil’s name was announced by Dilip Walse Patil, who was appointed returning officer in the internal elections process. Before the official announcement, a meeting of key leaders of the party was held at Sharad Pawar’s residence in Pune. The convention was attended by all top leaders like Ajit Pawar, Dhananjay Munde, Sunil Tatkare, Jitendra Awhad and Rajesh Tope. The announcement of re-election of Sharad Pawar as the party’s National President for the seventh consecutive term was also made at the convention.

According to political experts, the whole exercise has been undertaken with an eye on the 2019 elections. “Sharad Pawar wanted a person with a clean image untainted by scams and Patil filled the space perfectly. In addition, Patil is a well-known orator and also has a suave image,” said political expert Surendra Jondhale. Similarly, Pratap Asbe, another expert, said it was more to maintain regional balance. “Patil belongs to Western Maharashtra and this was one of the considerations,” said Asbe.

Patil beat various leaders like former speaker Dilip Walse Patil, former minister Shashikant Shinde and leader of opposition in council Dhananjay Munde to the post.

According to a senior NCP leader, Pawar senior wanted to send a message to the party workers that he was firmly in the driver’s seat. “Sharad Pawar wanted to cut Ajit to size and also ensure the field is cleared for Sule,” said a NCP leader, on condition of anonymity.

Patil, who is the son of politician Rajarambapu Patil, a noted name in the cooperation movement, has been representing Islampur constituency in Sangli district since 1990 and is considered one of the top leaders in the NCP mentored by Pawar.

Patil is known to be articulate and has served as state finance minister from October 1999 to December 2008 and also as home minister from December 2008 to November 2009 in the erstwhile Congress-led government.

Sharad Pawar, in his speech after being appointed national president, taunted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his silence on vital issues. “Modi keeps quiet when he is supposed to react. In the past, he would criticise Manmohan Singh for not speaking much, but here Modi does not speak when it is required,” said Pawar.

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