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Maharashtra gets a Cabinet after 40 days; 9 seats each for BJP, Shinde faction

Reflecting the delicate balance in the new ruling coalition of Shinde's Shiv Sena faction and the BJP led by Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the “first phase” of Cabinet expansion included nine ministers each from both sides.

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and the newly-sworn in ministers. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

FORTY DAYS after he was sworn in as Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Eknath Shinde on Tuesday carried out the much-awaited expansion of the State Cabinet with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari administering the oath of office to 18 ministers at the Raj Bhavan in Mumbai.

Reflecting the delicate balance in the new ruling coalition of Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction and the BJP led by Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the “first phase” of Cabinet expansion included nine ministers each from both sides.

Indicating the challenges involved in the exercise, Shinde said, “Today, we have done the first phase of expansion. In the second phase, we will certainly accommodate more candidates.”

Similar assurances echoed from the BJP, which has 106 MLAs in the assembly that currently has 287 members. Shinde had obtained the support of 40 of the 55 Sena MLAs to win the confidence vote.

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The ministers from the BJP include state party president Chandrakant Patil, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Vijaykumar Gavit, Girish Mahajan, Ravindra Chavan, Suresh Khade, Atul Sawe and Mangal Prabhat Lodha.

Those from the Shinde camp are Gulabrao Patil, Dada Bhuse, Sanjay Rathod, Sandipan Bhumre, Uday Samant, Tanaji Sawant, Deepak Kesarkar, Abdul Sattar and Shambhuraje Desai.

Apart from experience and seniority, the Cabinet composition reflects regional and caste equations. There are four representatives from north Maharashtra, four each from Marathwada and western Maharashtra, and two each from the Vidarbha, Mumbai metro and Konkan regions.

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Eight ministers hail from the Maratha community, five from OBCs, and one each from the brahmin, Marwari Jain and Muslim communities, apart from one tribal leader and an SC representative.

However, the inclusion of Sanjay Rathod and Abdul Sattar from the Shinde camp has raised eyebrows.

Rathod had to resign from the Uddhav Thackeray government in 2021 after the controversial suicide of a 22-year-old woman allegedly known to him. The BJP had then sought his resignation.

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Sattar’s two daughters were on the list of candidates debarred by the Maharashtra State Council of Exams for their alleged involvement in the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) scam. Their names cropped up a day before the Cabinet expansion.

“I think the induction of Sanjay Rathod could have been avoided,” a national-level BJP leader, who did not wish to be identified, said. Party sources said that although Rathod represents the Shinde faction, his induction would affect the BJP’s image too at a time when it has projected Fadnavis as “Mr Clean”.

Their inclusion and the non-inclusion of women in the Cabinet drew criticism from the Opposition. The Leader of Opposition, NCP’s Ajit Pawar, said, “The government should have exercised caution to keep controversial ministers out of the Cabinet.” Pawar’s party MP Supriya Sule said, “It is unfortunate that there is not a single woman in the Cabinet.”

Sources in the Shinde camp described the Cabinet expansion as an ordeal with the number of aspirants outnumbering the limited berths. The ten independents and smaller parties that had joined the Shinde-led revolt, which toppled the Thackeray-led MVA government, did not get a slot this time.

Shinde did not give a timeframe for the next phase of expansion, with 23 of 43 slots still vacant. Sources in the BJP said, “The decision to have nine ministers each was to contain the unrest within the Shinde faction. But in the next expansion, the representation from BJP will be more…The formula that has been worked out is 60:40.”

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Fadnavis said, “We will work as a team. Our focus will be Mission Maharashtra. The development of Maharashtra, with special emphasis on backward regions, will be high on the government’s agenda.”

First published on: 09-08-2022 at 12:23 IST
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