Uddhav Thackeray’s state govt set to expand cabinet today
Just over a month after he took over the reins of Maharashtra in a dramatic turn of events, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday will expand the cabinet of the three-party Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Currently, there are six ministers in Thackeray’s cabinet. The council of ministers can have up to 42 ministers and a chief minister. With 36 berths available, more than 30 MLAs of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress are expected to take oath. The parties may keep a couple of spots vacant to be filled later. Allocation of portfolios is also expected soon.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar is expected to be inducted into the cabinet and could return as the deputy chief minister, party insiders said. Apart from Pawar, his party colleagues Dilip Walse Patil, Dhananjay Munde and Nawab Malik are expected to be inducted into Thackeray’s council of ministers.
The Congress is likely to induct senior leaders former CM Ashok Chavan, Vijay Wadettiwar and KC Padvi, among others. However, Congress may leave another former CM Prithviraj Chavan out. There is speculation that he may be given responsibility of the party’s state unit.
The Sena, headed by Thackeray, is expected to retain some of its ministers in the previous government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It will also induct some fresh faces. Party insiders said Thackeray was not keen on giving ministerial berths to senior leaders Diwakar Raote and Ramdas Kadam, who were ministers in the previous government.
Thackeray scion and Worli MLA Aaditya is unlikely to be inducted. He is expected to focus on party work and gain an understanding of government functioning before being made a minister at a later stage.
The three parties, who were in a huddle for two weeks, have also kept regional and caste representation in mind, while deciding to pick ministers.
NCP’s Ajit Pawar, Hassan Mushrif, Walse Patil, Datta Barne, are from western Maharashtra. Dhananjay Munde and Rajesh Tope, who are expected to be inducted, are from Marathwada region. Rajendra Shingne and Anil Deshmukh represent Vidarbha, while Jitendra Awhad and Nawab Malik are from Thane and Mumbai respectively. Aditi Tatkare, debutant MLA from Shrivardhan in Raigad and daughter of senior NCP leader Sunil Tatkare, is likely to be inducted as a junior minister.
Earlier, Sena MLAs were unhappy with the leadership for ignoring direct representatives (MLAs) of the people by giving ministerial berths to members of legislative council (MLCs).
According to Sena functionaries, Tanaji Sawant, Ravindra Waikar, Sanjay Rathod, Gulabrao Patil, Dada Bhuse could be retained. Sawant hails from Marathwada, Waikar is from Mumbai, Rathod is from Vidarbha, while Patil and Bhuse represent north Maharashtra. Abdul Sattar, a former Congress MLA who joined Sena ahead of the polls, could be inducted with Anil Parab, who is considered close to Thackeray. Thane MLA Pratap Sarnaik, Uday Samant, Bhaskar Jadhav, Prakash Abitkar, Sanjay Shirsat are among the other probables who may get a chance in Thackeray’s cabinet.
Sena insiders said that women leaders Neelam Gorhe or Manisha Kayande could be picked by Thackeray as ministers. Both Gorhe and Kayande are MLCs.
Meanwhile in Congress, veteran tribal leader from north Maharashtra KC Padvi would be included along with Wadettiwar of Vidarbha and Satej Patil from western Maharashtra. Sons and daughters of established congress leaders including Vishwajeet Kadam, Amit Deshmukh and Varsha Gaikwad could be inducted as ministers in the expansion.
Of the big four portfolios—Home, Urban Development Department (UDD), Finance and Revenue—the Sena intends to keep UDD and Home. The NCP is pressing for home department along with finance. The Congress will get the revenue department.
The NCP is still negotiating with Thackeray to give them the home portfolio, which is currently with Sena’s Eknath Shinde. It is speculated that Ajit Pawar could be given the home department. However, the Sena is not keen on it as the NCP is not parting with the housing portfolio in exchange.
There is no official word on who would keep the home department—Sena or NCP. NCP and Sena insiders said that the housing department is expected to go to NCP. Congress has demanded one of the three departments with rural connect — rural development, agriculture or cooperation.
On November 28, Uddhav Thackeray took oath as chief minister after Sena, NCP and Congress stitched a post-poll coalition.