In an attempt to strengthen its position in the country's commercial capital, the Nationalist Congress Party today appointed parliament member Sanjay D Patil to head its Mumbai unit.
NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar approved the key appointment, following which Patil took over as the party's city chief today, a party official said.
At present, the NCP has only two legislators from Mumbai. Its ally Congress has 17, and six legislators belong to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, five are from the Bharatiya Janata Party, four from the Shiv Sena and one is from the Samajwadi Party.
Incidentally, the Congress's city unit chief post has been lying vacant for the past eight months after the resignation of Kripashankar Singh, who is battling corruption charges. There are still no indications of who will replace Singh or when the vacancy will be filled.
Patil (43), elected to the Lok Sabha from Mumbai North-East constituency, will be the NCP's 'Marathi face' as it prepares for the next general and assembly elections, both due in 2014.
His immediate predecessor was Narendra Verma, a youth leader who steered the party's city unit for over three years.
The two NCP legislators, Nawab Malik, a former minister and present spokesman, and Sachin Aher, a minister in the state government, have been holding the party flag in the city.
In the 2009 assembly elections, the Congress wave swept away the main parties, the Shiv Sena and BJP, and gave a strong foothold to Raj Thackeray's MNS, which wooed Marathi 'sons of the soil' with great effect.