Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar chose not to drop most of his senior ministers in the reshuffle of the NCP team in the state government in the run-up to the elections scheduled next year.
Out of 20 ministers from the party, six were dropped, including three seniors — Babanrao Pachpute, Laxman Dhoble and Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar.
Two other ministers embroiled in controversy, Gulabrao Deokar and Bhaskar Jadhav, were dropped. Minister of state Prakash Solanke was among those whose resignations were accepted, while stalwarts such as Chhagan Bhujbal, RR Patil, Jayant Patil and Ganesh Naik were retained. Except Deokar, others who faced allegations — Bhujbal, Vijaykumar Gavit, and Sunil Tatkare — were retained in the cabinet.
There was no question of deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who faces the most serious allegations, being kept out of the cabinet as it was evident that he had consolidated his position as number two in the party. Sharad Pawar chose to induct four legislators who are seen as Ajit’s followers. Among these was Shashikant Shinde, one of Ajit’s trusted aides. Most parties tend to give new entrants the berths of junior ministers, but Shinde, who has never held a post in the government, was made a cabinet minister.
Party’s state chief Madhukar Pichad, Shinde and Dilip Sopal were sworn-in as cabinet ministers, while young legislators Suresh Dhas, Uday Samant and Sanjay Savkare were inducted as ministers of state. Governor K Sankaranarayanan administered oath of office at Raj Bhavan on Tuesday morning.
While reshuffling his team in the cabinet, Pawar has ensured the regional and socio-political balance is maintained. Even representation to the same district was given. Pichad replaced Pachpute (from Ahmednagar district), Shinde came in place of Naik-Nikmbalkar (from Satara), Sopal took over from Dhobale (Solapur), Samant from Jadhav (Ratnagiri), Dhas from Solanke (Beed) and Savkare from Deokar (Jalgaon).
NCP leader and speaker of the legislative assembly Dilip Walse-Patil, who had also submitted his resignation, was left out of the reshuffle, which means he will probably be asked to continue in the same post.
The party is yet to announce Pichad’s successor. Party leader Praful Patel had on Monday said that the successor would be a new face. The selection will be made in a meeting on June 15.