The bitter differences between the two ruling parties — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena — reached the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. The Sena ministers protested against the reshuffle of guardian ministers and proposals that were brought without prior notice. The irked ministers later left the cabinet meeting before it was concluded.
In the cabinet meeting, the ministers alleged the Sena leadership was not taken into confidence about the appointment of the guardian ministers and they learnt about the changes from the media. They also made the government defer the decision on the proposed Ahmadabad-Mumbai bullet train and the hawkers policy. Significantly, while the Sena ministers claimed they did not stage a boycott, but left early because of some reasons, the BJP denied any such incident.
Senior BJP member and agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar said, “The Shiv Sena ministers sat through the cabinet. They may have met the CM after the cabinet meeting over the issue.”
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had shuffled the district guardianship last week by divesting some of the ministers responsibility of major districts and appointing associate guardian ministers in some districts. Sena’s Raote was made the guardian minister of Osmanabad by divesting his responsibility of Parbhani district.
Similarly, minister of state for revenue (Shiv Sena) Sanjay Rathod was stripped of the responsibility of Yavatmal district and was appointed guardian minister of Washim district. Minister of state (BJP) Madan Yerawar will replace him.
Sensing that the BJP was trying to cut the party to size in Yavatmal, Shiv Sena ministers expressed discontent during the meeting of the state cabinet. The ministers also opposed a proposal related to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project that was brought for discussion without prior notice, forcing the CM to appoint a cabinet sub-committee for the decision on the same.
A senior Sena minister said Fadnavis assured them he would resolve the issue by talking to Thackeray. This is the first time in the past two years that the Sena has openly registered its opposition. The clashes between the two are expected to grow as the elections for the municipal corporations and district councils near.
Raote said he left the cabinet meeting because he got phone calls from Thackeray, while two other senior Sena ministers said the party was not happy with Fadnavis and hence they chose to leave after registering their protests and opposed the proposals they were not happy with.
The state cabinet also cleared the new hawkers policy, despite opposition from the Sena. The policy aims to regulate hawking in the state, including Mumbai. The government has now constituted a cabinet sub-committee to finalise the modalities of the policy.
The BJP hopes the policy will help it woo the north Indian population — a majority of hawkers are from the community for the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). According to sources, Raote had raised an objection to the draft policy. The cabinet members also had differences on a number of hawkers as according to BMC figures, they had received 99,000 forms duly filled by hawkers during their survey in 2014. Sena ministers were of the view the figure is too less because in Mumbai alone the number of hawkers would be in lakhs, informed the sources present in the cabinet meet.
Meanwhile, ahead of elections to 10 municipal corporations, including home turf Mumbai, civic councils and zilla parishads, the Sena has convened a meeting of its office bearers and senior leaders from across the state on Wednesday. Party sources, however, said the meeting, scheduled to begin at 2pm at Rang Sharda auditorium in Bandra, is an annual feature to discuss and approve administrative matters.
“This meeting does not usually touch upon election matters and strategy, but discusses internal issues regarding the party. But this time, with several municipal councils having gone to polls last year and the Mumbai civic polls close at hand, the party leadership may say something on the overall political situation,” a Sena office bearer said. While party leaders are preparing for the Sena to contest all 227 seats by itself, keeping lists of prospective candidates ready, party leaders are also looking to the Sena chief to bring in more clarity on whether the party is likely to contest the BMC polls alone or with the BJP.
Rathod met Thackeray on Tuesday and expressed his dismay over the reshuffle. “I have done good work in the past two years in the district. The reshuffle was unexpected for me,” he told the media. Rathod, who hails from the same district, insisted he had done good work in Yavatmal and also helped Shiv Sena’s legislative council candidate win two months ago.