Nearly 21 months after Devendra Fadnavis took up the reins in Maharashtra, the chief minister will carry out a cabinet expansion on Friday, bringing in nine to ten new faces.
While Fadnavis is not expected to drop anyone from his cabinet, he will reshuffle portfolios especially as eight are up for grabs after his senior most minister and rival, Eknath Khadse, quit.
The six likely new ministers from the BJP are Pandurang Fundkar ( MLC who hails f rom Buldhana), Sambhaji Nilangekar-Patil (Latur MLA), Jaykumar Rawal ( Dhule), Subhash Deshmukh (Solapur), Madan Yerawar (Yavatmal), and Ravindra Chavan (Dombivli). They are a mix from different regions including North Maharashtra, Vidarb ha, Marathwada. All six visited the CM’s official residence Varsha late on Thursday night for a meeting. Fadnavis’ long-awaited rejig will be prompted as much by the ‘performance potential’ of the candidate as by his ‘political worth’ as BJP plans to expand its regional base in the upcoming local self-government polls that will start from this October itself.
The coup for the chief minister, however, has been getting ally, Shiv Sena on board without giving it an additional cabinet berth. Sena, will get two new ministers of state in this expansion – Jalgaon legislator Gulabrao Patil and Jalna legislator, Arjun Khotkar but will have to make do without an additional cabinet berth. At least one of its new berths will include the crucial minister of state for home berth that Sena had demanded.
The big portfolios including the crucial revenue is likely to go to Public Works minister Chandrakant Patil, who will then be divested of his co-operatives portfolio. It remains to be seen who bags the co-operatives portfolio. Minister of state for home, Ram Shinde is also likely to get promoted to a cabinet rank for work well done. Water resources minister Girish Mahajan may get medical education which is currently with education minister Vinod Tawde.
``No minister is likely to get dropped but there could be changes as a result of inducting three to four new cabinet ministers. Those who have additional portfolios currently may also lose them to make the cabinet function better. This is not going to be a performance audit,’’ said a BJP minister.
The Sena’s share in the cabinet got thrashed out late on Thursday evening after Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray dispatched senior party leaders Diwakar Raote and Subhash Desai to varsha to discuss the issue with Fadnavis, BJP state president Raosaheb Danve and Public Works minister Chandrakant Patil. The Sena had been given a miss in the Union cabinet expansion and it was expected that the party will extract its pound of flesh in the state expansion. Instead, the party had to do with just two junior posts and a promise of more powers to these junior ministers, even as BJP leaders claimed there was never any promise of a cabinet berth to the ally.
Senior Sena leader and Industries Minister Subhash Desai said that Fadnavis had agreed to give the Sena the minister of state for home portfolio. “The CM has also agreed to strengthen existing ministers’ portfolios and give more powers to our junior ministers, two of our long-pending issues.”
“The Sena ministers told the CM that the Sena was agreeing to the BJP’s offer only because it did not want the government to run into a fresh conflict. Hence, the CM must respect the Sena and accommodate it while he divides portfolios,” said another senior Sena leader.
The talks among senior BJP leaders for fixing portfolios for the new ministers continued till late night at Fadnavis’ official residence Varsha.
The swearing-in ceremony will be conducted at Vidhan Bhavan (Council Hall) on Friday morning.