For Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Cabinet expansion exercise on Tuesday proved to be an exercise in managing expectations as the number of aspirants far outnumbered the 18 ministers sworn in. Nine of the ministers are from the Shinde camp while the rest are from the BJP.
Maharashtra can induct a maximum of 43 ministers, including the CM. Following this round of inductions, the strength of the Council of Ministers will be 20, leaving 23 vacant posts to be filled in the next expansion.
Highly placed sources said, “Chief Minister Eknath Shinde held meetings with MLAs well past midnight. A lot of effort was undertaken to pacify the angry members who insisted on a Cabinet berth in the first expansion.”
Shinde who was on a tour of Hingoli and Nanded to assess the flood situation returned to Mumbai late last night. After that, the leader of the rebel Shiv Sena faction attended a series of meetings with individuals in his group. Insiders said the CM had to explain to some MLAs to show restraint and not react at the moment. He also impressed upon those who did not make it to the Cabinet to wait for the second round of expansion that is likely to take place after the Monsoon session of the state Assembly.
The 18 ministers set to join the government are Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Chandrakant Patil, Vijaykumar Gavit, Girish Mahajan, Suresh Khade, Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Ravindra Chavhan, Gulabrao Patil, Dadaji Bhuse, Sandipan Bhumre, Abdul Sattar, Deepak Kesarkar, Shambhuraje Desai, Sanjay Rathod, Tanaji Sawant, and Uday Samant.
The Shinde camp has a total of 50 members. Of them, 40 are Shiv Sena rebels and the rest Independents. The rebels make up the nine from this group who have been made ministers. The Independents, insiders said, were asked to wait till the next cabinet expansion. High on the list is the name of Bacchu Kadu of the Prahar Jan Shakti. He was a minister of state in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
MLA Sanjay Shirsat from the Shinde faction dismissed claims of discontent in the group. “This is a BJP-Sena government. There is no discontent. In the first Cabinet expansion, only 18 ministers have been accommodated. Those who are not included will find Cabinet berth in the next expansion.”
The challenges confronting the BJP are no less. The party, with 106 legislators, also has a long list of aspirants. Several prominent candidates who were ministers in the 2014-’19 Fadnavis government have been asked to wait while many senior MLAs who were hoping to find themselves in the council of ministers have also been left disappointed.
A senior Vidarbha MLA said, “Yes, surely everybody wants to become a minister. But then everybody has to follow the party’s decision.” Another BJP functionary said, “Being a bigger party, it should have accommodated more candidates. The Cabinet expansion should have been in proportion to the party’s strength. Which is two-thirds BJP and one-third Shinde Sena.”
Former minister and Bandra West MLA Ashish Shelar said, “There is absolutely no unrest within the BJP. Every member of the party is well-trained to accept whatever role is assigned to him or her. The top leadership of the party takes decisions keeping in mind the larger interest of the organisation.”