Who will succeed Eknath Khadse, BJP’s troubleshooter who also managed 10 portfolios? For chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the BJP leadership, it will be a tight rope walk. Their biggest challenge will be to get at least a couple of leaders, who match Khadse’s ability to handle administration work and play Mr Fixit.
Fadnavis’ options seem limited. He is likely to choose between senior ministers Chandrakant Patil and Girish Mahajan to handle the revenue department along with their own portfolios. Patil is believed to be very close to party chief Amit Shah, while Mahajan is Khadse’s bête noire.
The party may now change its earlier stance and induct more cabinet ministers than ministers of state to ensure no incumbent minister is overburdened with numerous portfolios; much like Khadse was, sources said.
Besides senior party leader and former leader of opposition in the legislative council Pandurang Phundkar, Chainsukh Sancheti, Haribhau Jawale may be inducted as the new cabinet ministers, while minister of state for home Ram Shinde, who belongs to the Dhangar (shepherd) community, is likely to be elevated.
Finance minister and senior party leader Sudhir Mungantiwar has refused to take on the home or revenue departments. Fadnavis has kept all the 10 departments with him for now and is unlikely to do away with the home department, sources said. “Besides finding suitable names to head the departments, the party will have to strike a regional and caste balance. The party is facing the challenge of being called anti-OBC after Khadse’s ouster and will have to accommodate leaders from backward classes. Western Vidarbha may get representation in the cabinet to pacify rising unrest in the region,” said a party functionary.
A meeting between Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray is likely this week. Of the 10 seats, three will go to the ministers of state from smaller allies (RPI, Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha and Shiv Sangram), two will go to the Sena, while five will be kept by the BJP, sources said. “The five- or six-term MLAs are already senior ministers. We have identified MLAs that are three to four terms old and will be inducted, but only if they meet the regional equations. For instance, Raj Purohit and Mangalprabhat Lodha are senior MLAs, but cannot be inducted as the Mumbai quota has been filled,” said a senior minister, on condition of anonymity.