TWO WEEKS after the oath of office was administered to the Maharashtra chief minister and six other ministers, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government on Thursday finally announced distribution of Cabinet portfolios, ahead of the Winter Session of the state legislature, scheduled to start on Monday.
While the crucial home portfolio went to the Sena, NCP bagged finance and Congress revenue departments. Sources in the government said that the six ministers (two each from Sena, NCP and Congress) will handle all portfolios for now. A Cabinet expansion is likely to take place after the Assembly session ends on December 21.
While Uddhav has not kept any portfolio with himself, Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde was named the new home minister. Apart from home, Shinde will also handle urban development, environment, forests, water supply and sanitation, tourism, MSRDC and parliamentary affairs. Subhash Desai, the other Sena minster, will handle industries, agriculture, higher and technical education along with other departments.
NCP loses home, but gets irrigation
The Shiv Sena’s decision to wrest the home ministry is a major setback to the NCP, which always held the portfolio when the party was part of a coalition government with the Congress in the state during 1999-2014. However, the NCP getting the irrigation and cooperatives departments is being seen as significant in the wake of allegations against party leaders in the irrigation scam and alleged irregularities in Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank.
NCP’s Jayant Patil will handle finance and planning along with housing, public health, cooperation, food and civil supplies, labour and minority affairs. On the other hand, the other NCP minister, Chhagan Bhujbal, will handle portfolios of rural development, irrigation, social justice, excise, skill development and food and drug administration.
Congress’ Balasaheb Thorat will handle revenue, energy, school education and medical education, animal husbandry and fisheries. Nitin Raut, the second minister from the party, will handle public works department, tribal welfare, relief and rehabilitation, women and child welfare, OBC department and textile.
The home portfolio going to the NCP has come as a setback to the NCP, said party insiders. Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who is likely to be inducted in the Cabinet, was vying for the department, said sources.
“It is surprising how NCP’s top leadership bowed to Sena’s pressure and gave up the home portfolio. In the past, when Congress-NCP was in power, NCP always held the home portfolio. Congress’ hard bargain for the portfolio was always met with stiff resistance from the NCP,” said a NCP leader.
However, party leaders said important portfolios of irrigation and cooperation going to the NCP is significant, especially in the wake of alleged corruption charges faced by NCP leaders, including Ajit Pawar, in the multi-crore irrigation scam and Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam.
Meanwhile, the energy portfolio has gone to the Congress, which was retained by the NCP in the past, said sources.