The tussle between the BJP and its coalition partner Shiv Sena has entered the first row of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. A battle seems to be raging for front row seats in the House. Both parties are trying to assert their House “rights” during the Budget Session that started a week ago.
Shiv Sena is apparently disappointed with the BJP for “denying” at least two Sena ministers front row seats. By doing this, the Sena says, the BJP has reneged on the 2:1 power-sharing formula they had decided upon when joining hands to form government.
Rather than sending some of its own ministers to the back rows to suit the 2:1 formula, the BJP is said to be contemplating on sending some opposition Congress and NCP MLAs to the back rows to make more front space for Sena ministers.
The NCP and the Congress may be asked to give up some seats on the front row. There are 10 Sena and 20 BJP ministers in the cabinet.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Girish Bapat told The Indian Express, “Yes, we will have to make space for Sena in the front row. We are going to make some corrections in seating arrangements to give greater representation to Shiv Sena ministers holding cabinet rank in the front row.”
Eight BJP ministers, besides Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, occupy front row seats. They are Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, Public Works Department Minister Chandrakant Patil, Housing Minister Prakash Mehta, Social Justice and Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savara, Education Minister Vinod Tawde and Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde.
Shiv Sena has just two leaders — Transport Minister Diwakar Raote and Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam — on the front row. Among those relegated to the back seats are Minister for Industries Subash Desai, and Minister for Health Deepak Sawant.
The BJP and the Sena have agreed upon a 2:1 power-sharing ratio.
The Sena wants it to reflect in the front row seating of the House.
A Sena minister, unhappy at his back-bench position, said, “If the BJP has eight ministers on the front row, Sena deserves four (2:1).”
The BJP is not in a mood to send any minister to the second row to make the ratio work. The Congress, which has 42 MLAs, and NCP, which has 41, may have to give up some front row seats if the BJP has its way.
An NCP leader said, “Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, leader of NCP in assembly Jayant Patil, former minister Chhagan Bhujbal and former assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil occupy the front row. As per norm, we cannot ask the former speaker and house leader to occupy a back seat. But then, asking senior leaders Pawar and Bhujbal to shift is an affront.”
The Congress, on its part, is facing difficulties as senior former ministers like Patangrao Kadam, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, and leader of the opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil will retain the front row seats. There are also talks of a junior, Vijay Waddetiwar, being asked to leave the front seat.