Even as Eknath Shinde is the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, with both the BJP and Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena gets an equal allocation of nine ministerial berths each, Sunday’s portfolio allocation sends out a clear signal: that the keys of this cabinet will be held by BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Apart from Urban Development, which has been retained by the CM, all other important portfolios — Home, Finance, Energy and Housing — have gone to Fadnavis.
For any coalition government, the tussle is usually confined to the top four portfolios — Urban Development, Home, Finance and Revenue. Of these four, Shinde only got Urban Development. The remaining three are with the BJP — two with Fadnavis and the third, Revenue, with senior BJP leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, considered a key Fadnavis hand.
Sources said Vikhe Patil, the former Opposition leader from the Congress who joined the BJP in July 2019, has been rewarded with the Revenue portfolio for his “loyalty to Fadnavis”. Revenue is usually the most desired post after CM and Deputy CM. A crucial ministry that monitors developments across 355 talukas covering 40,000-plus villages in Maharashtra, it is considered the backbone of any government as it helps control state administration at the grass roots.
Fadnavis, who was forced to settle for the Deputy CM post, has been entrusted with greater responsibilities in the running of the coalition government.
The BJP, which is larger party in the coalition with 106 MLAs, has managed to convince the Shinde Sena that it has the rightful claim over plum portfolios.
Not surprisingly, the party has got Home, Finance, Housing, Energy, Revenue, Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development, Forest, Culture, Fisheries, Higher and Technical Education, Textile, Parliamentary Affairs, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Medical Education, Sports and Youth Welfare, Tribal Welfare, Labour, Public Works Department, Food and Civil supplies, Cooperative, OBC Welfare, Tourism, Skill Development, Women and Child Development, and Protocol.
The Shinde Sena, with 50 members — 40 rebel Sena and 10 Independents — have been allotted General Administration, Urban Development, I&T, Social Justice, Relief and Rehabilitation, Disaster Management, Water Conservation, Environment and Climate Change, Minorities Welfare and Wakf, Water Supply and Sanitation, Ports and Mining, Food and Drugs Administration, Industries, Public Health and Family Welfare, Agriculture, Excise, Employment Guarantee Scheme and Horticulture, School Education and Marathi Bhasha.
Forty-one days after Shinde and Fadnavis took the oath of office on June 30, the Cabinet was expanded with nine ministers each from the BJP and Shinde Sena.
The Maharashtra government can have 43 ministers in all, including the CM. With the current strength of the Cabinet at 20, 23 berths still remain to be filled.
Said a BJP insider, “Fadnavis will keep only Home and Finance. In the next Cabinet expansion, the other two portfolios he now has (Housing and Energy) will be given to the new ministers from the BJP.”
The portfolios allocated to senior BJP ministers Sudhir Mungantiwar and Chandrakant Patil have raised eyebrows. Mungantiwar, who held the key Finance ministry along with Forest in the previous Fadnavis Cabinet (2014-2019), has now got Forest, Fisheries and Culture.
Former state party president and former minister Chandrakant Patil has got the portfolios of Higher and Technical Education, Textile, and Parliamentary Affairs. In the previous BJP government, Patil had PWD, Cooperation and Marketing.
Senior BJP MLA Vijaykumar Gavit from Nandurbar is the Tribal Welfare Minister. Gavit, who hails from the tribal community, had joined the BJP from the NCP ahead of the 2014 Assembly polls.
Girish Mahajan, seen as a close associate of Fadnavis, has got Rural Development, Medical Education and Sports and Youth Welfare. In the earlier Fadnavis government, he held the Water Resources ministry.
The key departments of PWD and Food and Civil Supplies have gone to BJP’s Ravindra Chavan.
A senior BJP functionary said, “The portfolio allocation should not come as a surprise. The BJP conceded the most coveted post of CM to Eknath Shinde. So we were bound to extract important portfolios.”