A day after the expansion of his cabinet, Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday reshuffled portfolios, before leaving for a four-day tour of Russia. Fadnavis managed to do a balancing act, as he took away some departments held by influential ministers of the BJP, and at the same time, kept ally Shiv Sena happy. The Sena’s junior ministers got charge of politically significant departments such as home (rural) and cooperation.
BJP chief Amit Shah’s confidant Chandrakant Patil emerged as the number two in the Fadnavis cabinet as he was given the revenue department, which is seen as second to chief minister’s post in terms of protocol. Patil now has revenue in addition to public works department (PWD), while his cooperation and agricultural marketing departments have been allocated to newly inducted Subhash Deshmukh. Cooperation is a politically significant department as the opposition —Congress and NCP — held sway over rural Maharashtra for a long time through their control on the cooperative sugar, banking and milk sectors, which form the backbone of the rural economy in the state.
Energy minister Chandra-shekhar Bawankule will now handle additional responsibility of the excise department. Deshmukh and Bawankule are both considered close to Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari.
However, two influential ministers – education minister Vinod Tawde and rural development minister Pankaja Munde – suffered a setback as Fadnavis took away the medical education department and the water conservation department, respectively, from them. Medical education went to water resources minister Girish Mahajan, a close confidant of the chief minister, while water conservation was given to Ram Shinde, who was promoted to Cabinet minister rank in Friday’s expansion. Housing minister Prakash Mehta lost charge of labour department, which has been given to new entrant Sambhaji Patil-Nilangekar. Senior BJP leader Pandurang Fundkar is the new agriculture minister.
The Shiv Sena’s junior ministers got two significant departments. Sena’s Deepak Kesarkar will be minister of state for home (rural), while newly inducted Gulabrao Patil will be minister of state for cooperation. Kesarkar was earlier minister of state for finance. Sena’s other junior minister, Arjun Khotkar, will be MoS for animal husbandary and dairy development.
Former minister Eknath Khadse was holding the revenue, excise and agriculture departments, among other portfolios, before his ouster from the cabinet following allegations of wrongdoing against him.
Besides Fadnavis, who heads home and urban development departments, finance and forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, tribal welfare minister Vishnu Savara as well as food and civil supplies minister Girish Bapat were the BJP ministers whose portfolios remained unchanged. Shiv Sena, too, chose to not change the portfolios of its cabinet ministers.
Among the other newly inducted ministers, Jaykumar Rawal was given tourism and employment guarantee scheme portfolios and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha’s Mahadev Jankar has been allotted animal husbandary and dairy development departments, which was held by Khadse. Swabhimani Paksha’s Sadashiv Khot will be MoS agricultural and marketing.