The Maharashtra government is set to expand its cabinet in the next two days, probably on July 8. It will induct 9-10 new faces. After the expansion of the Modi government at the Centre two days ago, the long-pending expansion plan has got a boost.
The 20-month-old Fadnavis government is running the administration at its two-third strength because it could not implement its expansion plan for various reasons. After the sudden expulsion of senior-most minister Eknath Khadse over corruption charges last month, an expansion has become inevitable because 10 portfolios handled by him are temporarily with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The expansion is more likely between June 8 and June 9 ahead of the monsoon session starting July 18 and days before Fadnavis begins his four-day Russia tour on July 10.
The Fadnavis government, which is running the show with 19 ministers and 10 junior ministers, has 14 more berths to fill.
To avert unrest among the aspirants, the BJP will choose to keep two to three berths vacant and induct five to six legislators. The Shiv Sena has two ministers of state berths, while two smaller allies have been given one seat each. Sadabhau Khot of Swabhimani Paksha and Mahadev Jankar of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha will be inducted as ministers of state. The Sena is also exploring the possibility of one more cabinet berth in lieu of a berth in central ministry.
Western Vidarbha is set to get at least two more ministers — Madan Yerawar from Yavatmal and one of the three legislators from Buldhana — Pandurang Phundkar, Sanjay Kute and Chainsukh Sancheti — will be sworn in. Sambhaji Nilangekar from Nanded in Marathwada; Jaykumar Rawal from Dhule, Haribhau Jawale from Jalgaon in North Maharashtra and Suresh Khade from Sangali in Western Maharashtra are the other MLAs to be inducted. Yerawar may be inducted as minister, while minister of state for home Ram Shinde, who is from the Dhanagar (shepherd) community, is likely to be elevated as minister. By his elevation, the BJP will attempt the pacify the community, which is upset because of the government’s failure to give it assured reservation ahead of the assembly elections, said a BJP party functionary, on the condition anonymity.
Sources in the Shiv Sena said it was going to await an official word from Fadnavis over the expansion. Party sources said there was no decision yet on who its final nominees for the posts will be.
However, sources in the Sena said the party will try and give adequate representation to different regions from the state. “We have to ensure Northern Maharashtra and Marathwada are represented in the cabinet, along with Western Maharashtra as well,” said a party MP, not wishing to be named.
Among the probables are Gulabrao Patil, the Sena strongman from Jalgaon, Jalna MLA Arjun Khotkar, Kolhapur’s Sujit Minchekar, along with MLC Neelam Gorhe.
The new venue
Although it has not been confirmed officially, the swearing in is likely to take place at the atrium, the newly constructed area in the Mantralaya. The swearing-in ceremonies of the Fadnavis government took place at Wankhede stadium and Vidhan Bhavan in November and December 2014.