Maharashtra Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar Monday said a cabinet expansion in the state will take place any time soon. Speaking to the media at the Mantralaya, Mungantiwar said, “Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has returned to Mumbai after successfully completing a week-long tour to USA and Canada.” He added, “The chief minster has already finalised the names of candidates who would be inducted in the government. The cabinet expansion will happen any time.”
Before going abroad, the Chief Minister had appointed candidates to key government-run corporations. Some more appointments in the corporations, which are pending, would be completed in the next one week, the Finance Minister said.
If the chief minister conducts the expansion, this could be the final political exercise undertaken before the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The exercise will also enable the government to provide representation based on region, caste and composition.
Talks about a cabinet expansion have often cropped up in the past one year. The current discussion on expansion comes following the death of Agriculture Minister and senior BJP leader Pandurang Phundkar. Apart from the vacancy created by Phundkar’s death, there are existing vacancies in the cabinet which remained unfilled for last three-and-a-half years. The state’s permissible cabinet strength is 43. It includes the Chief Minister’s post. After Phundkar’s death, the strength has come down to 38.
Of the total 38 ministers, 12 represent Shiv Sena. There is one minister representing Rashtriya Samaj Party and one representing Shetkari Swabhiman Party. The remaining 24 ministers belong to the BJP.