The former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister, Gopinath Munde, was appointed on Monday Deputy Leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha.

He replaces Sushma Swaraj, who has become the Leader of the Opposition.

Ramesh Bais will continue as chief whip of the BJP Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha, while S.S. Ahluwalia will remain Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha. Maya Singh will be the chief whip in the Rajya Sabha.

The appointments were announced by senior leader L. K. Advani, who took over as chairman of the BJP Parliamentary Party last week.

It will be the first national-level assignment for the 60-year-old Munde, a prominent OBC leader and first-time MP from Beed in the Marathwada region. First elected as MLA in 1980, he became secretary of the party’s Maharashtra unit in 1982. He served as the BJP’s State unit chief for two terms (1986 and 1988). He became Deputy Chief Minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena government in 1995 and held the post till 1999. He is also the brother-in-law of the late Pramod Mahajan.

Sources in the party said the name of senior leader from Karnataka Ananth Kumar was also under consideration for the key post.

The sources felt that through Mr. Munde’s appointment, the BJP wanted to send out the message that it had brought to the fore a leader who would give voice to farmers and the Backward Classes in Parliament.

The sources indicated that Mr. Ananth Kumar could head the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs in place of Ms. Swaraj, who would most likely vacate the post.

Yet another key position — Chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee — has fallen vacant after the expelled leader, Jaswant Singh, resigned. The post could be offered to the former External Affairs and Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha.