Mumbai: Congress leader, four-term legislator, and former Shiv Sainik Vijay Wadettiwar was on Monday nominated as the leader of the Opposition in Maharashtra legislative assembly by Speaker Haribhauu Bagde. Wadettiwar was recently named the Congress party group leader in the assembly.
Though he will have a short tenure, till 7 November when the term of the Maharashtra assembly ends, Wadettiwar’s nomination is seen as the Congress’s attempt to lend some aggression to the party’s campaign for the assembly elections likely in October this year. Maharashtra legislature is currently in its monsoon session which is also the last legislative session for the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government before elections.
The nomination of the leader of the Opposition was necessitated after senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil quit the post and resigned from his membership. Vikhe-Patil earlier this month left the Congress too and was made a minister with the housing portfolio in the recent cabinet expansion by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
In the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, the Congress has 40 members, down from 42 after the exit of Vikhe-Patil and resignation of another rebel Congress legislator Abul Sattar. The Nationalist Congress Party too has 40 legislators, down from 41 after one of its legislators Jaydatta Kshirsagar resigned and left the party to become a cabinet minister from the Shiv Sena.
Wadettiwar, who represents the Chimur assembly constituency in the Naxal-insurgency affected Chandrapur district of Vidarbha region, started his political career as a National Student Union of India activist. He later joined the Shiv Sena and was also a member of the Maharashtra legislative council from the Shiv Sena. In 2005, he left the Shiv Sena amid rebellion by former chief minister Narayan Rane who left the Sena and joined Congress.
Wadettiwar has been with the Congress since then and has been re-elected three times to the assembly from the Chimur constituency. An aggressive politician with the style of a Shiv Sena leader, Wadettiwar became an obvious choice for the post of the leader of the Opposition after Vikhe-Patil left and the Congress named senior leader and former minister Balasaheb Thorat as the leader of the legislative party.
A state Congress functionary, who did not want to be named, said Wadettiwar was chosen for his “aggressive and street-smart politics which could be an asset for the party in the forthcoming assembly polls" and also because he was from Vidarbha, the region chief minister Fadnavis hails from.
Meanwhile, senior Shiv Sena leader and MLC Neelam Gorhe was elected unopposed as the deputy chairperson of the Maharashtra legislative council.