MUMBAI: Opposition members in the Maharashtra Assembly on Monday asked Speaker Haribhau Bagade to nominate Congress MLA Vijay Waddetiwar as the leader of opposition (LoP) in the Lower House.
As the monsoon session began on Monday, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Balasaheb Thorat said he had written to the speaker about their demand.
Thorat said since Waddetiwar was the Congress group leader, he should be nominated as the LoP as he enjoyed the support of all opposition parties.
To this, the speaker said he had received the letter and that he would take a decision in "due course of time".
Thorat objected to Bagade's comment and said the LoP's post was the "right" of the opposition.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar noted that Bagade on Sunday said he will consult a "few people" and take a decision.
"Few people means chief minister. I expect Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to take a decision since there are only 17 working days in this monsoon session," he said.
Pawar, in a lighter vein, then said the chief minister had "taken away" two leaders of opposition (former Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde before his party joined the government) and made them ministers.
"We hope he will leave Waddetiwar for us," he said.
To this, BJP leader SudhirMungantiwar said, "We cannot help if people are interested in joining us." Waddetiwar also responded saying "frequently changing loyalties is not good. I will be on that (ruling) side only if we return to power."
Waddetiwar was formerly with the Shiv Sena and joined the Congress a few years ago.
Vikhe Patil, who was earlier the leader of opposition in the state Assembly, quit as an MLA recently and he was on Sunday inducted into the Fadnavis cabinet and given the plum housing portfolio.
During the Shiv Sena-BJP coalition government in 1995, Vikhe Patil was in the Uddhav Thackeray-led party and later joined the Congress in 1999.
When Ajit Pawar asked if a member can quit as an MLA and become a minister in the government during the same term, Fadnavis said there is no law which prevents a member to resignas legislator and become a minister in the same term.
"He can remain minister for six months without becoming being a member of either of the House (Assembly and Council)," the chief minister said.
When Shiv Sena member Gulabrao Patil pointed out that Narayan Rane earlier quit as the LoP and the Sena membership to become a minister in the then Congress-NCP coalition government, Pawar said Rane had contested the by-election immediately and won.
Earlier as the House assembled for the day, Vikhe Patil went to the opposition benches and greeted his former colleagues.
Sena leader Jaydutt Kshirsagar, who quit the NCP recently and became a state minister on Sunday, also greeted his former colleagues.
WhenFadnavis introduced his new ministers sworn in during the cabinet expansion on Sunday, members of the treasury benches raised the slogan- "Jai Shriram".
To this, Ajit Pawar quipped "aayaram gayaram" (referring to frequent floor-crossing by legislators).
Before the session began, some opposition MLAs staged a protest outside the legislature and alleged that the Fadnavis government was not keeping its promise of development, but was busy inducting into the cabinet those who switched loyalties from the opposition to the ruling party.
Reacting to the remarks, Vikhe Patil said, "Everyone has the right to express himself/herself. I cannot do anything about their disappointment."