After Lok Sabha poll results, Congress may lose Leader of Opposition post in Maharashtra assembly

The Congress could lose the post of the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Maharashtra assembly, with five of its legislators set to leave the party, according to people familiar with the developments.

Five legislators — current LoP Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Abdul Sattar, Kalidas Kolambkar, Nitesh Rane and Jaykumar Gore — are expected to formally quit the Congress this week. Some of them could join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the people cited above who asked not to be named.

The anti-defection law will entail that they resign as MLAs and the constituency goes up for re-election. In this case, however, there may be no need for bypolls because the state assembly elections are due in the next four to five months. If the MLAs quit the party and resign from the assembly, the Congress’s strength in the House will come down to 37 from 42. Its alliance partner, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has 41 legislators of the total 288 members, will then become the main opposition party in the assembly and claim the coveted post. The Congress is hopeful that the NCP will allow it to hold on to the LoP post. “As there are only four months left for the assembly elections, we hope the NCP will allow our party to keep the post even though they will be having more MLAs than us,” Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Anant Gadgil said.

Former CM Prithviraj Chavan is likely to replace Vikhe-Patil as the leader of the Congress party in the assembly. It was not immediately clear whom, if at all, the NCP will nominate as leader of Opposition if the Congress MLAs quit. The Maharashtra Congress has identified these five legislators as the ones who had allegedly worked against the party’s candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The likely desertions will come as a jolt to the Congress ahead of the assembly elections.

Mumbai-based political analyst Abhay Deshpande said, “Their morale is already down after drubbing in the polls and now this fresh crisis. It depends on the NCP now whether they will stake the claim for the post with just about four months remaining for the assembly polls.”

First Published:
May 27, 2019 07:18 IST

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