With the untimely death of veteran Congress leader Ahmed Patel, the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi has lost a coordinator, guide and problem solver. Last year, during this time, Patel was shuttling between Delhi and Mumbai for the formal formation of MVA comprising Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress. Patel was a key negotiator along with the former state in charge Mallikarjun Kharge.
On one occasion, the negotiations among three parties had almost collapsed, as they were unable to decide their leader and sharing of the assembly speaker’s post. However, NCP chief Sharad Pawar came out of the meeting and announced Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray as MVA’s leader and chief ministerial candidate. During the same meeting, Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar walked out halfway. On November 23, last year, early morning, he took the oath of deputy CM with Devendra Fadnavis as CM, keeping his uncle and allies in the dark.
Patel, who spoke to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, announced that the party will continue to remain with Pawar senior and hoped that Ajit Pawar’s rebellion will fizzle out.
Three partners continued talks and ultimately, on November 28, they released a common minimum programme and, thereafter, Thackeray was sworn in as CM on the same. Congress leaders Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut were administered the oath of office and secrecy on the same day. Patel was present at the swearing in ceremony held at the sprawling Shivaji Park.
Congress insiders, who were party to the negotiations, pointed out that Patel insisted that the party should get the post of the speaker of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, which was claimed by NCP. However, Patel remained firm and, after bargaining, NCP yielded and agreed to leave its claim on the speaker’s post. Despite strong demand by Patel and other states for the deputy chief minister’s post, it failed to get it.
When the negotiations were underway, Patel met the Union Minister of Roads and Highways Nitin Gadkari and it led to strong speculation that the Congress may not join the Shiv Sena and NCP to provide an alternative to BJP in the state. However, Patel scoffed at the rumours, saying that he had met Gadkari on the issue of farmers and it was not related to politics or Maharashtra.
Despite 44 legislators, Patel was credited for the Congress party getting in all 12 ministerial berths, including 10 cabinet and two ministers of state in the Uddhav Thackeray-led cabinet. Besides, Congress could bag crucial departments, including revenue, public works, energy, relief and rehabilitation and medical education. Patel’s rapport with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and former union minister Praful Patel came handy for the three parties finally to work out a common minimum programme in which Shiv Sena agreed to include secularism.
Recently, Patel's clout in the party helped the former legislator Muzzafar Hussian to get nomination for the state council from the governor's quota.