Congress seeks inclusion of bigwigs in Maharashtra cabinet
The much-awaited cabinet expansion in Maharashtra will take place on Monday but the Congress is still grappling with its choices as it wants a formidable leader in the government to balance the other two alliance partners.
The assessment within the Congress is that the party should have a strong voice in the council of ministers to put forth its views on critical issues taken up by the state cabinet and not allow the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to run roughshod over it.
As a result, a section in the Maharashtra Congress is pushing for the inclusion of both former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan in the government in view of their administrative and organisational experience.
“At times, we need to voice our dissent on certain issues in the cabinet and for that we need a strong voice,” a senior Congress functionary said, requesting anonymity.
But another section favours inclusion of only one former chief minister in the state cabinet, arguing the other could be given the top organisational post. Current Maharashtra Congress president Balasaheb Thorat has already joined the coalition government and is the revenue minister.
Thorat had replaced Ashok Chavan as the Maharashtra Congress chief in July this year, barely some months ahead of the assembly elections.
As per the agreement reached between the three parties at the time of coming together, the Shiv Sena will have 16 ministers apart from chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, the NCP 14, including deputy chief minister, and the Congress 12.
Currently the portfolios have been distributed among six ministers who make up the cabinet with two each from the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress.
Apart from Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan, the other Congress frontrunners are state working president Yashomati Thakur, former Congress legislative party leader KC Padavi, former leader of the opposition Vijay Namdevrao Wadettiwar, senior leader Sunil Kedar, former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son Amit, former Maharashtra Youth Congress president Vishwajeet Patangrao Kadam and Satej (Bunty) D Patil.
Among the Muslim nominees, the race is legislators between Aslam Shaikh and Amin Patel.
However, a senior Congress functionary said the final call would be taken on December 29 after the approval from the party high command. Congress general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge will be in Mumbai on December 28 in connection with the party’s 135th foundation day programme. He will later hold discussions on the cabinet formation with the state leaders.
Apart from Thorat, the other Congress leader in the cabinet is Nitin Raut who holds the public works department (PWD) portfolio.
The Congress is also seeking a few more important ministries, including agriculture.