The first cabinet expansion of the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government on Friday marked BJP’s reconciliation with its old ally Shiv Sena but smaller parties that allied with BJP were left high and dry, and were not in the picture during the reunion. Senior leaders of three pre-poll allies indicated that they did not receive an official invite to Friday’s swearing-in ceremony. Not only that, there are fears that they not included the next round of expansion either.
Post the failure of seat-sharing talks, Shiv Sena and BJP had gone separate ways to contest the Assembly elections. Swabhimani Paksha of MP Raju Shetti, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha of Mahadev Jankar, Vinayak Mete’s Shiv Sangram and Ramdas Athvale’s RPI had thrown their weight behind BJP and contested jointly with the BJP. Other than RSP, no ally could send an MLA to the House. Rahul Kul from Daund was the only winner amongst the BJP’s pre-poll allies.
After Fadnavis’ ascension to the chief minister’s post, leaders of these parties had expected to be included in the council of ministers. Shetti had said both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP state president Amit Shah had promised to accommodate them during cabinet expansion. It was even decided that allies would be accommodated in the ministry as ministers of state, one of the leaders said. Friday’s expansion did not include any of them.
The smaller allies “boycotted” the ceremony. Both Shetti and his trusted lieutenant Sadabhau Khot said they had not received any official invite.
“Fadnavis called us around 12 noon asking us to attend the ceremony but it was not possible for us to go,” said Khot. Shetti said said as he was in Delhi for the Winter Session of Parliament it was not possible for him to attend the swearing-in function.
Senior leaders of Swabhimani Paksha said allying with BJP had proved futile for all of them (smaller parties).
“It would have been more fruitful if the allies had gone with Shiv Sena. With none of the leaders being included in the cabinet expansion we do not know what will happen to the allies,” said a senior leader of RSP.
Shetti said they will keep a close watch on working of the state government and oppose any anti-farmer decision. “We will be meeting in a couple of days and our future course of action will be decided then,” he said.