Even as the BJP-Shiv Sena government sails through the winter session bolstered by its comfortable majority and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis settles down to implement his vision, signs are emerging that all is not well in the top echelons.
There is considerable unease among senior BJP ministers over the unipolar nature of the government, with Fadnavis calling all the shots. And Sena ministers are unhappy with their portfolios.
Earlier this week, revenue minister Eknath Khadse said he was the chief minister’s equal. Khadse, who was a contender for the CM’s post, holds the major revenue portfolio and half-a-dozen others.He is also leader of the house in the legislative Council.
A week ago, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar was in the eye of the storm after he went to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh on a chartered flight. The minister’s supporters believe the controversy was an insider’s handiwork to push him into a corner.
Some senior ministers in Fadnavis’ Cabinet feel they are not being taken into confidence about major decisions.
A few don’t agree with the CM’s decision to delegate powers concentrated in the Mantralaya to field officers. They also want the CM to consult them before appointing guardian ministers to districts in the state.
“Ideally, there should be a small group of senior ministers the CM consults before taking politically significant decisions. Unfortunately, this is not happening in the government,” said a senior minister, requesting anonymity.
There are also those who are unhappy with Fadnavis’ decision not to allow personal secretaries and assistants of ministers in the Congress-NCP regime to continue in ministerial establishments. Most of the BJP-Sena ministers will now have to look for alternatives.
While BJP ministers are choosing to keep quiet, the Sena leaders are vocal about the disagreements.
Two days ago, environment minister and Sena leader Ramdas Kadam told mediapersons his party would not allow the Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Konkan.
The Sena and ally BJP differ on two issues: statehood to Vidarbha and the Jaitapur nuclear power plant.
“I was speaking in my individual capacity and not as part of the government. The Shiv Sena’s stand on these two issues remains unchanged,” said Kadam on Friday.
Significantly, in a meeting on Wednesday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray asked his ministers and legislators to ensure the party’s identity remained separate even after being in the government, and also to make the government accountable for the issues raised by the party earlier.
Fadnavis will also have to deal with the tricky issue of appointing guardian ministers.
The post of guardian minister is politically important for parties. There is a scramble for the posts in Mumbai suburban, Thane, Raigad, Pune, Nashik and some other prominent districts.
A few senior BJP ministers are unhappy they are not being consulted on the matter.
A minister close to Fadnavis admitted there was unease, but insisted it was no because of the CM.
“He [Fadnavis] was handpicked by PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. Further, the decision on portfolio allocation was taken at party leadership’s level. It is unfair to blame him for it,” the minister said. “It is the CM’s responsibility to show results. He has some plans and for implementing those, he needs to ensure some discipline in the functioning of the government. If anybody is upset, the CM can’t help it,” the minister said.
Significantly, Fadnavis has started cracking the whip in the state administration. Earlier this week, he asked the revenue administration to fill all vacancies in drought-affected Marathwada and Vidarbha area by transferring officers who have been on deputation outside the revenue department.