Maharashtra finally gets full-time opposition leaders

Nagpur: Senior Congress leader and former minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil was declared the new Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly here Tuesday.

He replaces opposition leader Eknath Shinde of the Shiv Sena in the wake of the party quitting the Opposition and joining the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government earlier this month.

Vikhe-Patil's appointment came a day after the Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP) Dhanjay Munde was elevated as Leader of Opposition in the legislative council, the upper house.

Munde is the estranged nephew of the late union minister and BJP leader Gopinath Munde and a cousin of current state minister Pankaja Munde.

With this, both Houses of the Maharashtra legislature have finally got full-time Leaders of Opposition, over two months after the 2014 assembly elections.

Interestingly, the NCP, which had offered "unconditional external support" to BJP after the elections, was eyeing both the posts.

Wanting to keep off the NCP, the Shiv Sena had openly supported Congress for the post of Leader of Opposition in the lower house, which finally materialised Tuesday.

In the October elections, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 122 MLAs (one died soon after so its effective strength was 121), Shiv Sena 63, Congress 42 and NCP 41, and the remaining going to independents and smaller parties in the 288-member house.

Earlier, the Leader of Opposition's post was held by BJP's Vinod Tawde, who quit after being elected to the lower house and is presently a cabinet minister in the state assembly.

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