Maharashtra’s rural development and women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde appears to be reluctant to let go off two important departments, which she lost in Saturday’s reshuffle of the Devendra Fadnavis ministry.
Her disappointment exposed lurking internal rivalries within the BJP, which has been fighting to fix fault lines after corruption allegations forced senior minister Eknath Khadse to resign reluctantly.
The 36-year-old daughter of the late BJP stalwart Gopinath Munde didn’t hide her displeasure either, tweeting on Sunday morning that she would not attend a water conservation summit abroad.
“Reaching Singapore tomorrow on Monday, there is a world water summit, I was invited but now won’t attend as I am not the minister in charge,” she tweeted.
Chief Minister Fadnavis, who is in Moscow, tried to placate the miffed minister: “Of course you must attend WLS 2016. As senior minister you will represent Government of Maharashtra.”
The tweet from Munde, who lost water conservation as well employment guarantee scheme, indicated Fadnavis didn’t take her into confidence before announcing the portfolio changes.
Water conservation wasn’t considered a prized portfolio, but assumed significance because of the BJP-led government’s ambitious Jal Yukt Shivar scheme that promises to wipe out drought in Maharashtra by 2019.
The portfolio went to Ram Shinde, a former junior minister who got promoted to cabinet rank.
Her other portfolio went to a young minister, Jay Kumar Raval, the legislator for Dhule, who may have been inducted to give representation to north Maharashtra after the ouster of Khadse.
Munde tweeted a quick congratulatory message to new ministers Shinde and Raval, saying she was happy that they got such important portfolios when the anti-drought scheme was at its peak.
Fadnavis became chief minister after the BJP’s overwhelming result in the 2014 assembly polls. He is seen as a first among equals for his young age and inexperience.
Supporters of Munde, on the other hand, call her the rightful heir to Gopinath’s political legacy. She had been pitched for the chiwef minister’s post just before the government was sworn in.
Munde is seen as a Fadnavis rival, but he has backed her so far, especially when she was engulfed in allegations of corruption.
Besides, Fadnavis’s so-called rivals in the cabinet include Khadse and higher education minister Vinod Tawde. Senior ministers Chandrakant Patil and Sudhir Mungantiwar are not happy with the chief minister either, sources said.
Patil is a confidante of BJP president Amit Shah, while Mungantiwar is close to Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, a former party chief.
But Fadnavis has been able to slowly strengthen his hold, which is demonstrated during the bold recast of his team by inducting young politicians who support his vision.