Nana Patole, the candidate of the Sena-NCP-Congress combine for the post of the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker, was elected unopposed on Sunday after the BJP withdrew its pick Kisan Kathore from the race. The election to the post comes a day after the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government sailed through the floor test amid protests by the BJP.
In an attempt to reach out to the agrarian communities in a government that is 'top-heavy' with western Maharashtra and Maratha leaders, Congress on Saturday nominated Patole — its former Kisan Wing leader — for the Speaker's post.
Patole, who comes from the OBC Kunabi community in Vidarbha region, was the first BJP MP to rebel against his party during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first term between 2014 and 2019.
Former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Patole both hail from Vidarbha region, which in the past has seen many agitations for creation of a separate state comprising of districts in eastern Maharashtra. Hence, the Maha Vikas Aghadi's decision can be seen as a move to maintain both caste and regional balance.
Saturday also saw protests by the BJP led by Fadnavis, who staged a walkout from the assembly before the floor test after NCP’s Dilip Walse Patil was chosen temporary speaker in place of his party’s Kalidas Kolambka.
Objecting to the move, the BJP said such a thing happened for the first time in the history of India as the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance was scared of losing floor test under a regular Speaker.
"Business is being transacted in the House in violation of the Constitution. The session itself is not in line with the rules. Since the national anthem had been played after the last session, it had ended sine die," said BJP's legislature unit leader Devendra Fadnavis.
"Summons was required to be issued through Governor to convene a new session. But that was not to be the case," he alleged.
Fadnavis also charged that the oath-taking ceremony of Thackeray and his six ministers, too, was not in line with the rules. "Someone took Balasaheb Thackeray's name, someone took names of (Congress chief) Sonia (Gandhi) ji and (NCP president Sharad) Pawar Saheb's name. The oath has to be taken as mentioned in the pro forma," he added.
In the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP is the single-largest party with 105 MLAs, followed by the Shiv Sena (56 MLAs), the NCP (54 MLAs) and the Congress (44 MLAs).
Rubbishing the claims of the BJP, NCP and Congress accused the party of being "ungraceful losers" and running away from the Assembly.
The NCP's chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said Walse Patil was appointed as pro-tem Speaker with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari's consent. The session too was convened after Koshyari's approval, he said.
"They wanted some excuse to run away, that is why all this (ruckus). Devendra ji (BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis) should take lessons from (senior BJP leader Eknath) Khadse on how an opposition leader should work," Malik said.
NCP MP Supriya Sule too said that the BJP ran away from floor test. "We are absolutely democratic. We will not stifle their (opposition's) voice. For us, the battle is not personal. We will win their hearts with love," she said.
"Maharashtra never saw vindictive approach. Our government will not work in a vindictive manner...They (the BJP) ran away when the floor test was on," Sule said.
All India Congress Committee secretary in-charge for Maharashtra Ashish Dua termed the BJP as "ungraceful losers". "Win of #MahaVikasAghadi of @ShivSena @NCPspeaks @INCIndia is a win of #democracy & of the people of #Maharashtra whose welfare is the prime mover of this development centric govt. Ungraceful losers beat a hasty retreat amplifying the fact that truth ultimately wins, lies lose...," Dua tweeted.