Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar of the NCP will once again don the deputy’s hat alongside Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray when the Cabinet expansion takes place this week. He is also likely to get the Home portfolio, said sources in the Shiv Sena and NCP.
On Monday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Thackeray held discussions over the Cabinet expansion and portfolio distribution for almost an hour.
The CM and those in his inner circle had said the much delayed Cabinet expansion will take place after the Assembly session. Political sources said it was imminent.
Ajit Pawar, who had earlier broken ranks with the NCP to prop up a putative BJP-led government that collapsed within 80 hours of its formation, is also considered as a prime contender for the key Home portfolio, also seen by many as the second most important portfolio after the CM’s post.
While the Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde presently holds the Home portfolio, sources said during negotiations between Uddhav and the NCP chief, the CM agreed to allocate the Home portfolio to the NCP. As the largest party in the alliance, the Sena has 56 legislators, the NCP 54, and the Congress 44.
Uddhav and six other ministers — two from each of these parties — took oath on November 28 and the Cabinet portfolios were allocated on December 12 among them. While Sena and NCP have readied a long list of names to be inducted during the expansion, the Congress is yet to do so.
In all the three parties, hectic lobbying is on for induction into the Cabinet. Sources in the Sena said senior leaders and former minister Diwakar Raote and Ramdas Kadam are determined to be part of the Cabinet after the induction of senior leader Subhash Desai, who was also a minister in the previous government. All three are members of the Legislative Council.
“Both of them are lobbying hard with the party chief to get into the Cabinet and making a case on the basis of Desai’s induction. The party chief is yet to take a decision,” a Sena functionary said.
In the previous BJP-Sena government, Shiv Sena MLAs had sought better representation in the Cabinet, pointing out that Desai, Raote and Kadam, who were the three Sena ministers in the Cabinet, were all unelected members.
“This may happen again if the party chief considers Raote and Kadam. It will be a tough call,” the functionary added.
According to Sena sources, Sanjay Rathod and Ashish Jaiswal from Vidarbha, Dada Bhuse and Gulabrao Patil from North Maharashtra, Uday Samant from Konkan, Abdul Sattar and Tanaji Sawant from Marathwada, Shambhuraj Desai from western Maharashtra and Ravindra Waikar and Anil Parab from Mumbai are in contention for ministerial berths.
In a break from the recent past, the Thackeray government will have just a handful of Minister of State (Junior) rank portfolios in the Cabinet. Of the total 43 ministerial berths in the government, 36 will be cabinet ministers and seven junior ministers, sources said.
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