To defuse the growing unrest within the party, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray is likely to replace some cabinet ministers representing the party. The decision to crack the whip on the ministers is an outcome of the growing dissent voiced by the second-rung leaders of the party in the internal meetings against the Sena cabinet ministers and established senior leadership for the last one year.
A highly placed source in the Sena said, “There is mounting pressure on the party leadership to change the existing Sena ministers who have failed to deliver in the last three years.” Indicating that the process of damage control exercise within the organisation had begun, the party source said, “Since the BJP has begun the process of assessment of their ministers, Sena leadership is also working on the possible course corrections.”
At present, there are a total of 39 ministers. They include 25 from the BJP and 12 from the Shiv Sena. Two ministers represent smaller parties — Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Rashtriya Samaj Party. Political managers in the Sena said that in the last three-four months, they had had a series of complaints pouring from the district local leaders against the cabinet ministers and senior leaders. “Those working at the grassroots argue that the lack of response from Sena cabinet ministers is detrimental to the organisational growth in their respective constituencies,” a party insider said. However, at its internal meetings, Sena ministers argued they were “handicapped” as they had no powers.
Shiv Sena is represented by five senior cabinet ministers – Industries Minister Subhash Desai, Transport Minister Diwakar Raote, Public Works Department (Public Undertakings) Minister Eknath Shinde, Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam and Health Minister Deepak Sawant. The other ministers of state are Deepak Kesarkar, Arjun Khotkar, Sanjay Rathod, Dadasaheb Bhuse, Vijay Shivtare, Ravindra Waikar and Gulab Patil.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was in Aurangabad, had said, “The cabinet expansion will definitely take place soon.” Sources in the BJP said that in any coalition government, it was understood that if the CM decided to undertake the cabinet expansion, it could be discussed and conveyed to all alliance partners, including Sena. “It is a part of the process to ensure their participation,” a party source said. The Shiv Sena’s course correction is a part of the exercise to plug the “shortcomings” in the organisation, sources said. ‘All is well with the alliance’
Almost 24 hours after issuing threat to walk out of the government, Sena ministers participated in the cabinet proceedings. Sena and BJP ministers said all was well. “Sena and the BJP are working together,” sources in both parties said. Asked about the Sena’s ultimatum to walk out of the government, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Tuesday quipped, “No ultimatum. We are ultimate.”
A senior political observer closely monitoring Sena-BJP ties said, “We have to make a distinction that the remark (Sena’s outburst on Monday) came from MP Sanjay Raut and not Uddhav Thackeray. Such remarks are often made to contain the restlessness within the organisation.” By talking tough, Sena had conveyed its displeasure about Congress leader Narayan Rane’s possible entry in the BJP, the observer said.
Sena officials said Thackeray will determine the party’s future roadmap after Dussehra (October 30), which will coincide with Rane’s announcement about his next move. However, a section within the BJP is also debating whether it would be worth it to induct Rane in the BJP and fulfill all his political demands. Rane wants to contest Lok Sabha elections and wants his son to be accommodated in the state cabinet.