Despite being denied a cabinet post at the Centre by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shiv Sena’s lone minister Anant Geete participated in the swearing-in ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan in Delhi on Tuesday, indicating that what went wrong in Delhi has been addressed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra. Fadnavis has promised Sena an additional cabinet rank or plum portfolio in the state government.
Highly placed sources in the Sena and BJP revealed, “The Centre had clearly conveyed to Thackeray that they can accommodate only one candidate with MoS rank.” However, Thackeray turned down the offer. The Sena wanted at least a cabinet rank for Anil Desai.
Fadnavis tried to convey the Sena’s sentiments to the central leadership which made it clear that if it changed the norms for the Sena, there would be other smaller allies who would also stake similar cabinet rank or additional portfolio claims.
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In the last cabinet expansion, the BJP had sent the name of Sena’s Anil Desai to the President. But hours before the swearing-in the Sena withdrew its candidate demanding an assurance of cabinet rank as well as a good portfolio.
According to a BJP functionary, “As per the formula which was arrived at during cabinet formation at the Centre, the Sena was promised only one cabinet and one MoS.” Moreover, sources in the BJP are quick to point that the Sena’s scathing attacks against Modi and Shah for the last two years made it more difficult for them to favour the Sena.
Political managers in Sena observed that even if they were given cabinet rank, Thackeray would have had plenty of problems as there were several senior members aspiring for the berth in the Modi cabinet. From Chandrakant Khaire, Bhawna Gawli to Sanjay Raut are part of the list is long. Any one candidate would have created fissures in the organsiation.
Secondly, enhancing its say in the Maharashtra government with a better portfolio or additional cabinet post works to the Sena’s advantage.
At present there are 29 ministers of which ten are from Sena and the remaining 19 belong to the BJP. The maximum strength of the cabinet can be 42. Which means Fadnavis can accommodate 13 ministers more. The Sena is due for only two MoS. The BJP candidates in the cabinet would be four to five. And two candidates from smaller allies Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Rashtriya Samaj Party.