In Maharashtra, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) played a masterstroke by picking Suresh Prabhu for the Cabinet berth even as an angry Shiv Sena denied his affiliation with the party.
Sena said Prabhu should be considered from the BJP quota before boycotting the swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi. This happened when the two parties had not reached an agreement on the Sena’s participation in BJP’s minority government in Maharashtra.
By choosing banker-turned-politician Prabhu, the BJP gave the Konkan region its representative in case Sena minister Anant Geete is asked to quit. The BJP has just one MLA in the Konkan region and does not have an MP because the Sena fielded its candidates as per the seat-sharing agreement with the BJP for Lok Sabha polls.
Prabhu joined the BJP a couple of hours before taking the oath. The BJP will get him elected to the Rajya Sabha in due course of time.
‘Mr Clean’ Prabhu is PM Narendra Modi’s choice because of his vast experience in governance and policy-making when he headed industry, environment and forests, fertilisers & chemicals, power, heavy industry and public enterprises before quitting the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet because of differences with the late Bal Thackeray.
Later, Vajpayee appointed him as the chief of national river-linking project with the rank of cabinet minister.
“The BJP has indicated it will respect good leaders from the Sena and even other parties,” said a senior BJP leader. “This may even trigger an influx of leaders from the Sena to the BJP,” he said.
Hansraj Ahir, a veteran from the coalfields in Chandrapur in eastern Vidarbha, was the BJP’s chief protagonist in exposing the coal scam. A soft-spoken MP, he was tipped to get into Modi’s first Cabinet, but was inducted on Sunday as a minister of state.
By giving Ahir a berth, the BJP has underlined the importance of loyalty to the party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who also hails from Chandrapur, has also endorsed Ahir.
With Sunday’s cabinet expansion, Maharashtra has taken its Union ministerial strength to six.