The Congress in Maharashtra is avoiding taking disciplinary action against its two MLAs over their conduct in the Assembly for fear of losing the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lower House.
The main opposition party is caught in a dilemma in dealing with the two MLAs – Nitesh Rane, son of former Congress leader Narayan Rane, and Kalidas Kolambkar, a staunch supporter of the senior Rane.
According to the party, Nitesh Rane and Kolambkar became “inactive” in the Assembly, which is currently having its budget session, after Narayan Rane claimed the BJP offered him a Rajya Sabha berth.
“If the Congress suspends their membership, it will be left with only 40 MLAs, one less than the NCP.
“Any such action will be followed by the NCP claiming the post of Leader of Opposition in the Assembly with 41 MLAs and the Congress will lose all privileges (attached to LoP post),” a senior party leader said.
The Cabinet minister-level post is currently held by Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, a senior Congress MLA.
There are enough indications Nitesh Rane and Kolambkar are keeping a distance from daily party affairs, including not joining the protests inside the House.
When Congress MLAs protest in the Assembly over issues of public interest, raise their voice or rush to the Well of the House, Nitesh Rane and Kolambkar are seen glued to their seats.
Despite all this, no disciplinary action is being initiated against them just to keep the post of Leader of Opposition with the party, said the Congress leader.
Another Congress leader said Nitesh Rane has not only distanced himself from the party but also taunted it in the past.
Nitesh Rane, during an election for a Legislative Council seat a couple of months ago, had openly said, “Everyone knows who got my vote.”
In that election, in which MLAs had cast their votes, BJP candidate Prasad Lad had defeated the Congress-NCP nominee.
The council seat fell vacant following the resignation of Narayan Rane.
“The Congress had issued a whip fearing cross-voting. Despite this, (Nitesh) Rane and Kolambkar had not followed the whip.
“It was a clear indication of disobedience, but the state Congress leadership has delayed any action against the two MLAs for sheer number game,” he said.