Ahead of cabinet expansion, Cong seeks exchange of dept

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Published on Dec 26, 2019 12:32 AM IST
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ByShrinivas Deshpande, Mumbai

With the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) likely to get the home department in exchange for another portfolio with the Shiv Sena, the Congress, too, has sought a department with rural connect ahead of the expansion of the cabinet on December 30. The party wants rural development, agriculture or cooperation department in exchange for one of the three departments it holds – revenue, public works and energy. A senior Congress leader said the demand has been put forth to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Currently, the rural development and cooperation departments are with the NCP, while agriculture is with the Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena currently has home, urban development and industries departments, while the NCP has finance, rural development, housing, irrigation and cooperation. It is likely to trade home department with the Sena.

The rural development department governs district councils or zilla parishads and is considered significant in rural politics. Cooperation department governs the cooperation sector, which is the backbone of rural economy in most parts of the state. Agriculture has direct connect with
farmers.

Earlier, the Congress wanted the post of deputy chief minister, but it later traded it with the post of Assembly speaker. Under the power-sharing formula of the three parties, the Shiv Sena has chief ministership, the NCP has deputy chief minister’s post, while the Congress has Assembly speaker’s post. Portfolio allocation has remained a contentious issue among the alliance partners of MVA government.

There were also speculations that the Congress is again asking for the post of deputy chief minister, but senior party leaders denied it.

“Senior party leaders came to the conclusion that the party should retain important portfolios with rural touch. This would help improve the party’s base in rural areas,” said senior Congress party leader on condition of anonymity.

He further said that since 2014, the Congress is losing its base in rural areas, so this is a good opportunity to improve its base, through ministries
such as agriculture, rural development and cooperation sector.

Former chief minister and Congress leader Ashok Chavan denied the developments. Chavan said, “The cabinet expansion formula is already discussed and according to that the deputy CM will be only from the NCP. We already have almost 10 portfolios. We just need to distribute it among our leaders.”

NCP senior leader Praful Patel said, “The deputy CM’s post will be with the NCP and Sharad Pawar saheb will take final call on it.”

Sena leaders chose not to comment on any speculations related to cabinet expansion.

Six ministers, two each from the Sena, NCP and Congress, were sworn in on December 14 at Shivaji Park. They include Eknath Shinde, Subhash Desai, Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayant Patil, Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut.

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