Mumbai: In a classic case of political quid pro quo, the opposition got the Leader of Opposition post in the assembly while in exchange, the ruling alliance got the position of the deputy chairperson in the council.
Senior Congressman Vijay Wadettiwar was nominated as the leader of the opposition in the Maharashtra assembly by Speaker Haribhau Bagde, while in the legislative council, senior Shiv Sena leader Dr Neelam Gorhe was elected unopposed as deputy chairperson of the council. Gorhe is the first woman to occupy this position after the creation of Maharashtra.
Interestingly, Wadettiwar was a former Sena leader who joined the Congress with Narayan Rane in 2005. He later deserted the Rane camp in the Congress, shifting loyalties to Ashok Chavan, for which he was rewarded with a berth in the council of ministers in 2008 when the former became CM.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis made the announcement in the Lower House and described Wadettiwar as a grassroots leader who has risen from the ranks.
“I wish him good luck, as a strong opposition leader is required to keep a watch on the government. We need quality and constructive opposition,” he said.
Beginning his political career in the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of the Congress, Wadettiwar later joined the Sena and was appointed as chairman of the forest development corporation.
Later, he was elected as a member of the legislative council (MLC) from 1998 to 2004. In 2004, he was elected to the state assembly for the first time, on a Sena ticket, from Chimur.
But, in 2005, he came back to the Congress and wrested back his seat, this time on the Congress ticket. He then served as a minister of state in the Congress-NCP government and in 2014, was elected as an MLA from the Brahmapuri seat.
Taking potshots at the opposition over its criticism of the government in appointing Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who recently quit the Congress and stepped down as leader of the opposition, as a state cabinet minister, Fadnavis dubbed the Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal as the 'father of defectors'.
In the early 1990s, Bhujbal and a group of MLAs had quit the Shiv Sena and joined the Congress. “I am not aware of the history before that since I was quite young," said the 48-year-old CM.
Vidarbha & Chandrapur connection
With Wadettiwar’s appointment, both the CM and the leader of the opposition are now from Vidarbha. Incidentally, both are also originally from Chandrapur. Most of the key ministers in the Fadnavis cabinet are from Vidarbha.
"Wadettiwar hails from Chandrapur, just like me and (state BJP minister) Sudhir Mungantiwar. Wadettiwar has been promoted in the Congress because he was instrumental in getting his party its lone seat in Chandrapur (in the Lok Sabha polls this year)," Fadnavis said.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar said Wadettiwar would get to play a “20-20 match”, as there are only seven working days left for the legislature. This is the last session of the state legislature before the state goes to polls in September-October.
Khadse targets BJP
Later, the BJP member and former leader of the opposition Eknath Khadse took potshots at Vikhe Patil, saying the latter was lucky to have been the leader of the opposition and become No.3 in the state cabinet in the same term.
“I will not continue Vikhe Patil's legacy," Khadse said, referring to speculation that he may quit the BJP. Khadse was the opposition leader in the assembly in the Congress-NCP government in the state.
After he resigned from the Fadnavis cabinet two years ago, following corruption allegations in a land deal, it was rumoured he might quit the BJP. However, Khadse always denied such rumours. Further, he said Waddetiwar should be thankful to Vikhe Patil for his elevation.
Later, Wadettiwar said in the House that though he had little time in which to function as the leader of opposition, he would strive to make the most of it. “I will make use of whatever responsibility has been thrust on me.
I will play it like a 20-20 match,” he said. He also vowed to bring back the Congress-NCP into power. He alleged that there is severe discontent against the government.
First woman to be dy chairperson of council
Shiv Sena legislator Neelam Gorhe was on Monday unanimously elected deputy chairperson of the Maharashtra legislative council. She is the first woman to be appointed this key post after the creation of Maharashtra. On this occasion, Neelam saluted her mother, who was sitting in the visitor's gallery.
The legislative council chairman Ramraje Naik Nimblkar announced Gorhe's appointment to the post. She is the first woman to be appointed deputy chairperson of the state legislative council, Chief Minister Fadnavis said in the House.
Gorhe, a third-term MLC, had earlier filed her nomination for the post in 2015, but had later withdrawn it. Finally, Gorhe got her due after having being sidelined since 2014.
She was not made member of any 'mahamandal' or given a berth in the ministry. Finally, when Priyanka Chaturvedi defected from the Congress in April to join the Sena as its spokesperson, the tide seems to have turned favourably for Gorhe.
The day was full of political drama. Gorhe and prominent Dalit leader Jogendra Kawade had filed the nomination for the post. Kawade was the opposition candidate.
But in the afternoon, as per the understanding between ruling and opposition parties, Kawade withdrew his nomination to pave the way for unanimous selection of Gorhe.
“I am part of the Mahatma Phule and the Ambedkar movement, of which Gorhe too is a member. Therefore, I am withdrawing my nomination,” announced Kawade. She started her political career as a worker in the Bharatiya Republican Party (Bharipa) under the leadership of Prakash Ambedkar.
CM Fadnavis lauded her work for women and the downtrodden and women. “She has always been instrumental in fighting for the issues of the oppressed. J T Sipahimalani was the first woman deputy chairperson, 60 years ago. She will certainly excel in this new role,” Fadnavis added.
The leader of the opposition Dhananjay Munde, the Peasants' and Workers' Party leader Jayant Patil and Industry Minister Subhash Desai too lauded her work. Later, at the joint meeting of the BJP-Sena legislators, she was felicitated by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.