Will Congress bag the Opposition leader's post again?
With defection threat looming large, party names Balasaheb Thorat as the leader of legislative party in state
In a bid to contain its depleting morale, especially at a time when the Congress faces the threat of defection from some of its legislators, the party has found a remedy to faction feud. They have named Balasaheb Thorat, an archrival of former Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, as the leader of legislative party in the state.
However, it would be interesting to see how the situation on the floor of the lower house unfolds and whether it allows Congress to grab the Opposition leader's post, in this case, Thorat or the party's Assembly group leader Vijay Wadettiwar.
Thorat, a former revenue minister in the Congress government, has been Patil's fierce competitor in Ahmednagar. Expecting some gains, the party has pitted him against Patil, who is expected to join the BJP and land a Cabinet berth ahead of the October Assembly polls.
Thorat shot to prominence during the Lok Sabha elections when party president Rahul Gandhi bonded with his family during an unscheduled overnight stay in Ahmednagar. It was said then that Gandhi had made his choice for Patil's replacement. Friday's missive from Delhi confirmed Thorat and several others' appointment in the legislature.
If his party proves strength and gets the Speaker's approval Thorat would be seen as Opposition leader in the Assembly in the last legislative session of the BJP government that begins next Monday. Congress has 40 MLAs and its ally NCP has 39. But equations may change if Congress legislators, who are negotiating with the BJP, defect to the treasury benches, and NCP stakes claim.
But Congress indicated on Friday that it was willing to appease MLAs Jaikumar Gore and Sunil Kedar, who were reportedly in touch with the BJP. The appeasement shocked many in the party, because they were expecting whiplash for Gore, who had campaigned for a BJP candidate in Madha Lok Sabha segment.
In case, the Congress proves strength and yet Thorat doesn't want the prime post, a fiery Wadettiwar, now promoted as group leader in the Assembly, might don the Opposition leader's cap. Mumbai legislator Mohammed Arif Naseem Khan has been appointed deputy leader in the lower house.
In other appointments, Basavraj Patil was given the chief whip's job. KC Padvi, Yashomati Thakur and Praniti Shinde were made whips. In the Legislative Council, Sharad Ranpise will continue as the party's group leader. Ramhari Rupanwar will be the deputy leader, while Bhai Jagtap will be the whip.
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