Congress leader Nana Patole, who earned the epithet of a "giant killer" after he defeated NCP's Praful Patel in Gondia in 2014 as a BJP candidate and later resigned as MP after accusing the Modi government of being anti-farmer, was on Sunday elected Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly unopposed. Pro-tem speaker Dilip Walse Patil made the announcement after BJP candidate Kisan Kathore withdrew his nomination earlier in the day.
The 56-year-old had won the assembly elections from Sakoli. He also contested against Nitin Gadkari and lost in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
A former BJP MP from Bhandara-Gondiya in the state, he had strongly criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party leaders in centre and state and had quit the party and his seat in December 2017.
He had released a 14-point letter citing the reasons for his resignation and even attacked the Maharashtra government earlier for the manner in which it implemented the farm loans waiver scheme.
Mr Patole's resignation came barely hours before the crucial Gujarat Assembly elections and he made a high profile return to the Congress for which he campaigned aggressively against the BJP in PM Modi's home-state.
Seen as a leader of the farmers and the Other Backward Class community, Mr Patole started his political career in 1990 at the Bhandara Zilla Parishad and was first elected as Congress MLA in 1999, later in 2004 and in 2009 on a BJP ticket.
He remained with the Congress till 2008, an independent for a year and joined the BJP in 2009 and won the Sakoli seat in Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra.
As speaker, he succeeds the BJP's Haribhau Bagade and his elevation is viewed as a signal from the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government that it is "pro-farmer" besides an attempt to maintain a political balance between the eastern and western regions of the state as Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is from Mumbai.