Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray expanded his cabinet on Monday with the hope of a new beginning in the New Year.(ANI Photo)
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray expanded his cabinet on Monday with the hope of a new beginning in the New Year.(ANI Photo)

Heavyweights dominate Maha Aghadi government

Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya decided to leave behind the legacy of the late Bal Thackeray’s famous “remote control” style of politics, and took the plunge into administrative politics.
By Sudhir Suryawanshi
PUBLISHED ON DEC 31, 2019 02:51 AM IST

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray expanded his cabinet on Monday with the hope of a new beginning in the New Year.

Thackeray and his son Aaditya decided to leave behind the legacy of the late Bal Thackeray’s famous “remote control” style of politics, and took the plunge into administrative politics.

The new cabinet is filled with heavyweights of Maharashtra politics, beginning with deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.

Former deputy chief minister Chagan Bhujbal, senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders Jayant Patil and Dilip Walse Patil; former chief minister Ashok Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat, Nitin Raut and KC Padvi from the Congress; and Subhash Desai, Eknath Shinde, Gulabrao Patil from the Shiv Sena are part of government. Former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son Amit is also part of the cabinet.

This has created an interesting situation where the chief minister has no earlier administrative experience while his cabinet colleagues are high-profile leaders with lots of experience. And from never having a Thackeray in power, the state now has two members of the powerful family running the administration.

This is also the first time two of the state’s most influential political families – Thackerays and Pawars – are running a government together. The government has tried to mix the old with the new, and ensured that plenty of administrative heft is at hand to run the coalition government, with the who’s who of state politics asked to run ministries. Whether it will lead to ego clashes or help take the state forward will be keenly watched.

Uddhav Thackeray, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and NCP chief Sharad Pawar have tried to balance caste, creed, religion and regional dynamics in their picks. Earlier NCP and Congress regimes were dominated by leaders from western Maharashtra, a traditional bastion of the two parties, while the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule had a number of ministers from the Vidarbha region.

This cabinet has a number of young leaders – including Aaditya Thackeray, Dhananjay Munde, Amit Deshmukh, Varsha Gaikwad and others – in a bid to attract young voters.

The parties also appear to have taken care that no personality clashes crop up in districts. For example, in Jalgaon, the Sena has named MLA Gulabrao Patil as cabinet minister while the Congress and NCP have nominated no one. The same is true in Dhule, where the Congress made KC Padvi a minister while the NCP and Sena kept away.

The Sena has tried to take care of its urban vote base by giving more representatives to urban legislators. This can be seen as preparation for the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, where the BJP will be keen to assert its position. The difference between the tally of the Sena and the BJP was marginal in the 2017 BMC polls.

The Congress and the NCP have also tried the same trick.

The NCP has inducted Nawab Malik, who took on the BJP at a time senior leaders were under investigation by central agencies. Also nominated is Jitendra Awhad, a close aide of Sharad Pawar. Munde, an Ajit Pawar loyalist, has also been rewarded. The Congress has named prominent Dalit faces such as Nitin Raut and Varsha Gaikwad. Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan, who held the party together at difficult times, were rewarded.

(The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist and political commentator)
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