The expansion of the Maharashtra cabinet is most likely to be held on Tuesday at the Raj Bhavan. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, along with nine other Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ministers, were sworn in on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Congress hopes to induct the remaining 21 ministers and the NCP, its final lot of 11 ministers. Hectic lobbying will continue over the next few days with a majority of the Congress senior leaders pulling their weight to get close aides, daughters, sons and supporters in the cabinet. The existing ministers are also lobbying hard to ensure they don’t lose out in the race.
Chavan, who was in Delhi on Saturday, met Congress high command, Sonia Gandhi, and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss ministerial aspirants and portfolio allocation. It is most likely to be finalised by Monday.
Chavan told reporters in the capital that social and regional balance would be the criteria to finalise the ministerial list. He also said that “some tough decisions” would be taken while finalising the ministers.
Sources in the party said that there were unlikely to be major changes in the cabinet ministers, though new faces would be seen among junior ministers.
For the NCP, the task is relatively simple with ten ministers already inducted.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel and Ajit Pawar had met in Pune on Friday and are likely to have discussed the issue.
“The final decisions rests with the party chief. In our party, the tussle currently is for the top portfolios. There may be one or two new faces in the cabinet,” said a party functionary on condition of anonymity. Pawar is in the city over the weekend and most of the portfolio allocations could be finalised by Sunday.
In the NCP, the tussle is on for important portfolios including home, energy, irrigation and finance. Party sources said Ajit Pawar may keep the home portfolio. If he decides not to, then he may want one of his close aides to get it. However, party stalwarts like Chhagan Bhujbal and outgoing home minister RR Patil are also vying for the department.
Bhujbal is most likely to get an additional portfolio like Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation along with Public Works Department.
(With inputs from agencies)