Cabinet expansion in Maharashtra sets pitch for lobbying in BJP – The Indian Express
The cabinet expansion in the Devendra Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra has set the pitch for intense lobbying within the BJP as aspirants are knocking on the doors of the state and central leadership for a ministerial berth. The expansion is expected to take place next week ahead of the winter session beginning December 7 at Nagpur.
At present, there are 30 ministers in the Fadnavis government, of which 20 ministers are from the BJP and ten from Shiv Sena. In the upcoming expansion, there is scope to accommodate a maximum of 12 ministers. The strength of Maharashtra government as per guidelines cannot exceed 42 ministers.
Of the 12 vacancies in the cabinet, BJP ministers cannot exceed 5 berths, Sena 2 and smaller allies 2. There is a possibility of keeping three berths from the BJP vacant for meeting political challenges ahead.
Highly placed sources in the BJP and government disclosed that the chief minister is likely to decide the final list with the central leadership in a couple of days to get the formal go-ahead. Both the Centre and the state government believes greater emphasis should be given to striking balance on social-engineering especially after the defeat in the Bihar.
The probable candidates from BJP whose names are being discussed at the party forum from Vidarbha region are Sanjay Kute or Chainsukh Sancheti. Senior leader Jaiprakash Rawal is the front runner for a cabinet berth from Dhule in North Maharashtra.
However, some quarters are also propping the candidature of Devyani Pharande or Pushpatai Hire arguing greater representation for women in the government. At present, there are only two women ministers – Pankaja Munde and Vidya Thakur in the government.
From the Marathwada region, those in reckoning include Sudhakar Bhalerao or Sambhajirao Nilengekar Patil, with Bhalerao having an edge.
From Mumbai, the competition is among three leaders – Raj Purohit, Mangalprabhat Lodha and Ashish Shelar for a ministerial post.
However, there is still ambiguity on whether Mumbai which already has adequate representation should be considered at all in the cabinet expansion. State education minister Vinod Tawde, housing minister Prakash Mehta and junior minister for women and child development Vidya Thakur represent the Mumbai region.
As for the Sena, it will have only two candidates in the next expansion taking its overall tally from 10 to 12. Insiders in the Sena revealed party president Uddhav Thackeray is also facing a challenge as the number of candidates seeking ministerial post is quite large. Yet, the party aims to give more representation from rural Maharashtra.
The front runners from Sena include Gulabrao Patil and Arjun Khot. However, senior leader Neelam Gorhe’s name is also being discussed as a woman candidate. At present, Sena does not have any women minister in the government.
The chief minister’s headache is not just confined to accommodating his party, but also its smaller allies – Swabhimani Shetkari Sangha, Rashtriya Samaj Party, Republican Party of India and Shiv Sangram.
Sources indicated that out of four smaller allies only two candidates from Rashtriya Samaj Party and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghata will be considered. The Shiv Sangram chief Vinayak Mete already has been made the chief of Shivaji Memorial Trust. RPI chief Ramdas Athavale has been given the Rajya Sabha from BJP quota before the 2014 elections. If RPI insists, Fadnavis may consider accomodate a candidate in a state corporation (mahamandals). There are 54 state corporations which again have to be divided between BJP and Sena in the same ratio as the cabinet.