Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis inducted 10 new faces to his team of ministers on Friday, adding six from his party – the BJP – and four from his allies, while promoting a junior minister to cabinet rank.
BJP legislators Subhash Deshmukh (Solapur), Jaykumar Raval (North Maharashtra) and Sambhaji Nilangekar-Patil (Marathwada) were inducted as cabinet ministers along with Pandurang Fundkar (Vidarbha), the former Maharashtra BJP chief, in a ceremony held at the Vidhan Bhavan.
Further, Ram Shinde, who was minister of state for home, was promoted to a cabinet rank.
Mahadeo Jankar of the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, a prominent leader from Dhangar (Shephard) community, was also sworn in as a cabinet minister.
The Shiv Sena, which has a troubled alliance with BJP, was not given a cabinet birth, however two of its legislators – Arjun Khotkar (Marathwada) and Gulabrao Patil (North Maharashtra) – were made ministers of state. The Sena has instead negotiated for the minister of state for home berth, a crucial junior post in the government, and a promise from the chief minister to expand the powers of their junior ministers.
The other new junior ministers inducted included BJP MLAs Ravindra Chavan (Thane district Dombivili), Madan Yeravar (VIdarba) and the Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana’s farmer leader, Sahabhau Khot.
Maharashtra Cabinet expansion: Visuals of oath taking ceremony being held in Mumbai. pic.twitter.com/WL8EAJc9dX— ANI (@ANI_news) July 8, 2016
This was Fadnavis’ first cabinet reshuffle in the 21 months since he took office, in which the new additions represent a mix of regions. No sitting minister was dropped from the cabinet.
The reshuffle is being seen as Fadnavis’ effort to revamp his team ahead of the election season in Maharashtra, which starts from October 16 and ends in March 2017. It will also face elections to 26 zilla parishads (district councils), nine civic corporations and 297 panchayats.
The polls will be a referendum on the Fadnavis government ahead of the 2019 polls and the BJP is hoping to expand its regional base by picking up as many local self government bodies as it can.
Fadnavis, who will announce the portfolio allocations later in the day, is also expected to reshuffle his sitting cabinet, which will indicate his audit of his ministers. When the final list is announced, it will tell us which minister gained and who lost the most.
The ouster of BJP’s senior most minister Eknath Khadse earlier last month, following allegations of conflict of interest, left nearly eight big portfolios up for grabs. The most significant of these is revenue which will be handed to incumbent public works minister, Chandrakant Patil, who hails from Western Maharashtra.