Maharashtra’s cabinet expansion and portfolio distribution was the key topic of discussion in Monday’s late-night meeting between Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his two deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis (Bharatiya Janata Party) and (Nationalist Congress Party) Ajit Pawar, according to sources.
While it has been more than nine days since Ajit Pawar and his 8 MLAs were sworn-in, no portfolios have been assigned to them.
The newly inducted ministers, along with aspirants for cabinet berths from the Shiv Sena and BJP, are putting pressure on CM Shinde for expansion as early as possible, as the ministers, too, will require some time to study their departments and prepare for the questions that will be asked by MLAs on the floor of the house.
If sources are to be believed, talks are still stuck over portfolio distribution, as the number of aspirants is more than the portfolios available.
AJIT PAWAR’S DEMANDS
Ajit Pawar, who was inducted recently, is demanding one of the important portfolios between home, finance and urban development.
Pawar was the finance minister in the CM Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. In 2022, when Shinde and his 40 MLAs parted ways with the Thackeray-led Sena, one of the reasons cited was Pawar did not give them funds easily, while NCP MLAs always got the first preference. Fadnavis is not willing to give the home department to Pawar and Shinde is not ready to part with the urban development department (UDD). There is a chance that Pawar may be asked to lead the revenue or energy department, both critical departments, which are with the BJP.
Source also indicated that Pawar has also sought irrigation, rural development, tourism, social justice, women and child development and excise departments for his MLAs.
CASTE FACTOR; NO MoS
Shinde and Fadnavis have reportedly held multiple meetings with their party legislators, and separately among themselves, over who can be inducted into the cabinet and who will get what.
While speaking to News18, a senior BJP leader said: “The cabinet expansion will happen within the next two days. Although the maximum limit in the Maharashtra cabinet is 43 ministers, it is likely that five ministers each from the BJP and Shiv Sena may take oath.”
The leader also said this time the possibility of having MoS (junior ministers) in the cabinet is bleak, as whoever will be sworn in will directly get a cabinet berth.
He indicated that instead of performance, Shinde and Fadnavis may consider the caste factor. It’s unlikely that Pawar may get finance, home, urban development and irrigation departments, he said.
‘IN 48-72 HOURS’
Speaking to the media, Minister Uday Samant said the cabinet expansion may happen within the next 48-72 hours. “The three leaders — CM Eknath Shinde and two Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar — know Maharashtra and its geography very well. They will allocate the portfolios according to the abilities of the MLAs. We have complete faith in Shinde’s leadership and we will accept the decision taken unanimously by them,” he said.
BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told this reporter: “One or two upset MLAs don’t represent the voices of all 40-50 Shiv Sena MLAs. Like how we can’t induct all BJP MLAs as ministers, we can’t make all Shiv Sena MLAs ministers. Some will have to make the sacrifice or wait for their time.”