Just as talks between the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP enter the decisive stage, intense lobbying has already begun in the Congress over ministerial berths.
According to party sources, party heavyweights and former Maharashtra ministers will figure prominently in the Congress’ list of ministers if the three parties do come together to form the government.
As per discussions held so far between the parties, the Congress has been assured of at least 12 ministerial berths in the new coalition.
Sources said while the Congress leadership will factor in regional and caste representation while finalising its list of ministers, sources said it remains wary of the defection drama in Karnataka, where some of the heavyweights who were denied berth in the JD(S)-Congress government earlier this year had engineered a series of defections that eventually led to the collapse of the government.
While former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Maharashtra Congress president Vijay (Balasaheb) Thorat are being seen as the frontrunners to bag the Deputy Chief Minister’s post, sources said the names of several former ministers including Vijay Wadettiwar, Naseem Khan, Manikrao Thakre, Nitin Raut, Varsha Gaikwad, Ranjit Kamble and Satej Patil, among others, are in the running for ministerial berths.
While former CM Prithviraj Chavan is also in contention, sources said his name is emerging as a contender for the Assembly Speaker’s post, which is likely to come Congress’ way.
Other senior hands, also in contention, including Congress’ working president Yashomati Thakur, Sunil Kedar, Praniti Shinde, Vikas Thakre, Sangram Thopte, Amit Deshmukh and Vishwajeet Kadam, among others. “In a three-party coalition, we will have limited berths. In Karnataka, the move to leave out some former ministers had backfired. The party does not want a repeat,” said an All India Congress Committee functionary.
On a rebuilding mission, the NCP, too, is likely to opt for experienced hands, with former ministers Jayant Patil, Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil, Anil Deshmukh, Rajesh Tope, Nawab Malik and Hasan Mushrif expected to make the cut. Former Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde is also certain of a berth, while the names of legislators Dattatray Bharne and Makarand Patil are being taken as well.
‘Joining hands with Sena a mistake’: Sanjay Nirupam
Former Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said on Thursday it would be a “mistake” if the Congress joined the Shiv Sena-led government. “For the Congress to become third number party in the Shiv Sena government is like burying it here. It will be better that the Congress president doesn’t come under pressure,” said Nirupam, a former MP. To make his point, he added, “The Congress had committed a mistake by joining hands with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh years ago. It failed so badly then that it still has not recovered. We are committing the same mistake in Maharashtra.”