The saffron allies could be headed for another showdown, this time over the proposed state cabinet expansion. While the Shiv Sena, buoyed by the BJP’s defeat in the Bihar Assembly polls, is demanding two more cabinet berths, the BJP leadership is clear that they can only offer two junior — minister of state (MoS) — posts.
“Shiv Sena and our power-sharing formula was decided when they joined the government. There can be no dispute on that. They will get two MoS berths,” a senior BJP minister told HT.
The Sena, however, has spelt out its ambitions. Senior Sena leader and industries minister Subhash Desai said, “That agreement was made a year ago... things have now changed. There are demands from some quarters and a discussion within our party that we should get two cabinet-rank portfolios, even though we have not made a formal demand so far.”
Desai added that the BJP is yet to communicate to them about the cabinet expansion.
“Ideally, it should have happened by now, so that the ministers get time to understand their departments before the session begins.”
Currently, the Sena has 10 ministers — five cabinet and five MoS – in the Devendra Fadnavis-led government. After emerging victorious in the closely contested Kalyan-Dombivli civic polls and the post BJP’s Bihar elections debacle, the Sena feels it now has better bargaining power.
Chief minister Fadnavis had managed to broker peace after the Bihar results by agreeing to the Sena’s demand to build a memorial for Bal Thackeray at the mayor’s bungalow at Shivaji Park. However, given the history between the allies, such camaraderie can only be short-lived. Also, the Sena has been irked by the BJP’s silence on the issue of cabinet expansion.
The expansion, where five BJP ministers, two Sena ministers and four from the smaller parties were to be sworn-in, was expected to happen this weekend, a week before the winter session of the state legislature begins in Nagpur. But, there is speculation within the BJP that it may get delayed further.
With the delay almost inevitable, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray left for a tour of Marathwada on Saturday for a review of the drought situation in the state.
“Only the party’s senior most leadership in Delhi can say when it will happen. Sena is not the reason for the delay as party leadership is clear that they will get MoS posts,” said another senior BJP minister. The expansion is expected to be cleared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah after consultations with Fadnavis and Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari.