For over a month since its formation on June 30, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis were the only ministers in charge of state’s administration, taking key decisions, including the revival of stalled projects in the state.
The two-member government’s new cabinet was finally sworn in on Tuesday. Throughout the period, they received criticism for the delay, but BJP functionaries told The Indian Express earlier this month that in the past few years, the Cabinet expansion process had taken almost a month or more in states such as Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Karnataka.
“A month is not a long period for Cabinet formation. This is the minimum gestation period. All is well. With the government in the saddle, what’s the hurry?” a BJP leader said.
A look at governments that have run with small cabinets in the recent past:
Telangana, 2018 (December)
K Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR, had just one minister, Mohammed Mahmood with the Home portfolio, along with him for 68 days, after he came to power in the 2018 Telangana Assembly elections in December 2018. He subsequently inducted a 10-member cabinet.
Karnataka, 2019 (July)
For three weeks after the fall of the JD(S)-Congress government in July 2019, B S Yediyurappa, who was then the Chief Minister of Karnataka, ran the government alone. A month later, he inducted 17 members into the Cabinet.
The delay was largely attributed to deliberations and discussions over caste and other equations while handing out the portfolios. There were 39 MLAs from the Lingayat community, to which Yediyurappa also belongs. The disqualified 17 Congress and JD(S) MLAs, who helped topple the Congress-JD(S) coalition government and paved way for Yediyurappa to secure the trust vote, had to be accommodated as well.
Maharashtra, 2019 (November)
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), which was in power prior to the rebellion of the Shinde camp within the Shiv Sena, had a seven-member Cabinet for 40 days, after it came to power in November that year. In December, the government inducted 26 ministers.
Madhya Pradesh, 2020 (July)
After Shivraj Singh Chouhan became the CM of the state for the fourth time, he worked alone for nearly a month before he inducted five members, including two loyalists of Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose rebellion against the Congress brought down the Kamal Nath government on March 20. Chauhan had to walk the tightrope to choose loyal senior leaders as well as Scindia loyalists, leading to delays in expansion. .
After repeated promises, the BJP in Karnataka is yet to expand seats in its Cabinet. There are currently five positions vacant in the Cabinet, which has 29 ministers, including the CM, against the sanctioned strength of 34. There are also murmurs that there would be a complete overhaul of the Cabinet to make way for new faces, ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled later next year.
In Bihar, whose ruling coalition BJP and JD(U) is currently on shaky ground, also had issues with Cabinet expansion. After it came to power in October, 2020, CM Nitish Kimar hinted at possible hiccups in the alliance. when he said: “There has never been such a delay in Cabinet expansion in the past. I have always expanded my Cabinet shortly after government formation. At present, there are 14 ministers in the Bihar Cabinet. When the BJP provides its report (probable ministers list), only then the Cabinet expansion can take place.”
The issues ended after nearly three months, with the induction of 17 new ministers.
A power tussle in the NR Congress-BJP alliance delayed Cabinet formation in Puducherry in 2021. The alliance had won the assembly polls and formed government but it took over a month to form a Cabinet. NR Congress chief N Rangasamy took over as chief minister on May 7, but the Cabinet was expanded on June 27.
(With PTI inputs)