MLAs voice resentment after Maha cabinet expansion

Prakash Solanke, an NCP legislator from Beed district, threatened to resign after being overlooked. He was pacified by senior NCP leaders, after which he decided to stay on as a legislator.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Maharashtra Congress leaders in New Delhi on Tuesday.(PTI)
Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Maharashtra Congress leaders in New Delhi on Tuesday.(PTI)
Updated on Jan 01, 2020 03:29 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | BySwapnil Rawal and Shrinivas Deshpande, Mumbai

A day after chief minister Uddhav Thackeray expanded the cabinet of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, resentment is brewing within leaders of the three parties – the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress – who did not get ministerial berths.

Prakash Solanke, an NCP legislator from Beed district, threatened to resign after being overlooked. He was pacified by senior NCP leaders, after which he decided to stay on as a legislator.

Senior Sena leader and former minister Ramdas Kadam is reportedly upset and said to be considering resigning from the party’s position. A group of Congress leaders has reached Delhi to express unhappiness to party leadership.

Supporters of various leaders in the state protested on Monday. While Congress legislator Sangram Thopte’s supporters took to the streets to protest the ‘injustice’, Bhavana Gawli, Sena MP from Yavatmal-Washim, expressed unhappiness that another legislator from Vidarbha was not given a chance. “We had expected [Sanjay] Raimulkar or [Gopikishan] Bajoria from western Vidarbha will be included in the council of ministers. We have given a letter to Uddhavji Thackeray requesting for it. If despite this, the post goes elsewhere, there will definitely be resentment,” she said.

Sanjay Rathod, MLA from Digras, who was a minister in the previous government, was chosen by the party leadership. Sanjay Raimulkar, a three-time MLA from Mehkar in Buldhana, said he was expecting a call from the party to take up the post of a junior minister. “There was expectation that I could be included as a junior minister. I have been working for the party in this constituency and it is the party’s bastion for many decades. There is a bit of sadness that it did not happen, but work will not be hampered,” Raimulkar said.

Raimulkar said party workers and people from the region will now have to go to Rajendra Shingne, NCP MLA from Sindhkhed Raja, for work. “Sena workers campaigned against Shingne in the Lok Sabha polls, but now we will have to go to him for work. It is unfortunate,” Raimulkar said.

Another senior legislator Ashish Jaiswal from the Sena expressed unhappiness over being overlooked for “junior” and “Independent” MLAs.

Four-time MLA from Ramtek, Jaiswal was one of the front-runners for a cabinet berth. Jaiswal said, “There is no resentment, but a sense of disappointment. I do not mind letting go of the ministership, but for whom? If it was for Aaditya Thackeray, I wouldn’t think for a second, but not for juniors like Abdul Sattar or [Rajendra Patil] Yedravkar or [Shankarrao] Gadakh? The region needed representation.”

Sena MLA Prakash Abitkar from Radhanagari constituency said, “I do not wish to speak on the issue now. I will disclose my stand only after reaching Mumbai.”

Abitkar, who heads the Sena in Kolhapur, was expecting he would be made a minister. However, Thackeray picked independent MLA Rajendra Patil Yadravkar from Shirol. Abitkar was the only Sena or Bharatiya Janata Party MLA elected from Kolhapur district, which was ravaged by flood a month ahead of the state polls. One of the legislators from the Congress, on condition of anonymity, said, “Many juniors have been included in the cabinet. The party is not putting its weight behind leaders like us.”

Sources also confirmed that Satej Patil expressed his disappointment on being made a junior minister, considering his seniority and influence in Kolhapur district. There is a lot of discontent about the induction of sons and daughters of established politicians in the cabinet within the Congress.

Congress’s Vishwajeet Kadam, a two-time MLA, was inducted in the cabinet, while many experienced leaders were left out.

On Monday night, after Solanke announced he would resign as legislator, declaring retirement from politics, senior NCP leaders Ajit Pawar and Dhananjay Munde met him and pursued him to change his decision.

After the two-hour meeting, Solanke said, “I was expecting justice from the party. Party workers urged me not to take any such decision. I also had a discussion with the NCP chief. I am not going to resign and also don’t want any ministerial berth. I only want some respectable responsibility to work for public cause.”

Ajit Pawar said there was nothing wrong in expecting something from the party. “Everyone wants opportunities… there is nothing wrong in it. Discussions have been concluded and 2019 is ending on a good note,” he said after the meeting.

Commenting on Kadam’s disgruntlement, Sena insiders said Thackeray preferred MLAs over members of the legislative Council while choosing ministers. “Besides, his son (Yogesh Kadam) was given a ticket and he is an MLA now. It is not that he was neglected by the leadership,” a senior functionary said. Despite attempts, Kadam could not be reached for a comment.

Sena lawmaker Sanjay Raut is also unhappy after his brother, Sunil Raut, was overlooked for ministerial berth. Sunil, in a statement, however, said he was not upset and would continue to work for the party.

Sena MLA Bhaskar Jadhav, who crossed over from the NCP to the Sena before the state polls, openly expressed his “shock” on being excluded. Speaking to a regional news channel, Jadhav said, “I have been elected most number of times among the MLAs in the Shiv Sena. I have a lot of experience of being a minister. When I had discussed with Uddhav ji (about joining the Sena), I was assured I would be a part of the council of ministers. I wanted to help the now newly inducted cabinet minister Aaditya ji Thackeray. During the discussions with Uddhav ji, I was promised many things, which I do not want to say in public. I am not after money or power, but despite having merit and experience why was I overlooked? I have sought an appointment with Uddhavji and I hope to get answers to my queries then.”

Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said, “The cabinet composition shows dynasty politics, which could have been avoided. Besides, they have kept some senior faces to tackle the strong opposition from the BJP.”

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