Without waiting for the Congress to fill its three vacant berths in the Maharashtra cabinet, ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has decided to go ahead and induct Jitendra Awhad in the Maharashtra cabinet Thursday, which also signalled the first shake-up of the party’s organisational structure after the Lok Sabha debacle.
NCP president Sharad Pawar finalised Awhad’s name after a series of meetings to take stock of the party’s poor Lok Sabha poll performance, sources said.
Awhad, the state executive president, is likely to be sworn in by Governor K Sankaranarayanan on Thursday morning. He is likely to get the medical education ministry vacated by Vijay Kumar Gavit, who was expelled after his daughter Heena, now a Lok Sabha member, fought Nandurbar Lok Sabha seat on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket.
All through Wednesday, the name of Gavit’s younger brother Sharad Gavit, a Samajwadi Party legislator from Navapur, was doing the rounds for a berth in the council of ministers. The buzz was that he would replace MLC Fouzia Khan as Minister of State (general administration). Khan had been pulled up by the party for working against NCP’s Parbhani Lok Sabha candidate Vijay Bhambhale.
Late on Wednesday evening, only Awhad’s name had been communicated to the Governor’s office.
Congress state chief Manikrao Thakre confirmed that the Congress, which has three cabinet berths to fill, would not undertake an expansion on Thursday but with resentment brewing within the Congress following the crushing defeat, Thakre and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan met the party leadership in Delhi Wednesday to decide nominations to the upper House, the Legislative Council.
Sources said Awhad’s inclusion might signal an organisational restructuring at the state level in the NCP. Awhad might let go of his post in the state unit of the party.
Awhad’s elevation is being seen as NCP’s attempt to win back support of the Vanjari community, to which he belongs.