Mumbai: Two controversial ministers, equal power sharing, and preference to seniors and former ministers — these are some of the hallmarks of the newly-installed, all-male cabinet of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and rebel Shiv Sena group-led Maharashtra government.
The two-man Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government got a larger cabinet Tuesday, with 18 more ministers taking oath 40 days after the government was formed. Maharashtra can have a maximum strength of 43 ministers, including the chief minister, in its council of ministers.
The new cabinet — nine ministers from the Sena rebel group and nine from the BJP — took oath at the Durbar Hall of Mumbai’s Raj Bhavan after severe criticism by the opposition about how the lack of a cabinet was impacting governance in the state.
In the first expansion since chief minister Shinde and his deputy Fadnavis took oath on 30 June, the two sides accommodated senior, experienced faces from both parties. The BJP included senior leaders such as Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Chandrakant Patil, and Girish Mahajan in the cabinet, while Shinde gave preference to former ministers of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government who gave up their ministerships to join his rebel camp.
Shinde walked out of the MVA government that comprised the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Congress, in June. With 40 of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena’s 55 MLAs on his side, he formed a government with the BJP.
Shinde also included two controversial MLAs — Sanjay Rathod and Abdul Sattar — in his cabinet.
Equal power sharing, controversial names
In the very first expansion, the BJP and the rebel Shiv Sena group each inducted nine ministers despite the former having more legislators in the state assembly.
The BJP has 106 MLAs, while the Shinde-led Sena camp has 40. Besides, the government has the support of 10 more independents and legislators from fringe parties.
The equal power sharing in the first expansion, and especially the induction of Sanjay Rathod, show that CM Shinde managed to have his way in his negotiations with the BJP, political analyst Hemant Desai told ThePrint.
“BJP leaders such as Devendra Fadnavis, Pravin Darekar, and Chitra Wagh had strongly campaigned for Rathod’s dismissal from the MVA cabinet making it a question of morality. His induction shows that Shinde got to have his way,” Desai said.
He added that Rathod has a strong following in the Banjara community in Vidarbha’s Yavatmal district and “will be useful to Shinde to expand his influence in Vidarbha that is so far negligible”.
Rathod had to resign as minister from the Thackeray-led MVA cabinet in 2021 after the BJP alleged that he was involved in the death of TikTok star Pooja Chavan in Pune.
Last month, Shinde defended Rathod, saying the police had given him a clean chit in the case. BJP leader Chitra Wagh had, however, opposed the decision to induct Rathod into the cabinet.
पुजा चव्हाण च्या मृत्युला कारणीभूत असणार्या माजी मंत्री संजय राठोड ला पुन्हा मंत्रीपद दिलं जाणं हे अत्यंत दुदैवी आहे
संजय राठोड जरी पुन्हा मंत्री झालेला असला तरीही त्याच्या विरुद्धचा माझा लढा मी सुरूचं ठेवलेला आहे
माझा न्याय देवतेवर विश्वास
लडेंगे….जितेंगे 👍 @CMOMaharashtra
— Chitra Kishor Wagh (@ChitraKWagh) August 9, 2022
The other controversial name in Shinde’s cabinet is Abdul Sattar. As a junior minister in the former Uddhav-led cabinet who had left his post to join the Shinde camp, Sattar’s name was in the reckoning for the Shinde cabinet too. Sattar’s children are facing allegations of manipulating the results of the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET).
Sattar has denied the allegations.
Prasad Lad, a BJP MLC, told ThePrint, “With regards to power sharing, Devendra ji and Shinde ji were taking all the decisions and we have no problem with that. About allegations against Rathod, he did not get a clean chit under a Devendra Fadnavis government or Eknath Shinde government, but under the previous MVA government. Once that decision is done, why be unjust to a person?”
Lad said that allegations against Sattar are prima facie, based on reports. “If these are proven to be true in the future, the CM will take the appropriate decision.”
Rewarding former ministers for rebellion
Out of the nine ministers who took oath from the Shinde-led Shiv Sena, four — Gulabrao Patil, Uday Samant, Sandipan Bhumare, and Dada Bhuse — were cabinet ministers in the former MVA government. Two others inducted Tuesday — Abdul Sattar and Shambhuraj Desai — were ministers of state.
Three ministers from the Shinde camp have been junior or cabinet ministers before in the MVA government. Deepak Kesarkar, inducted Tuesday, has been the spokesperson of the Shinde group since the first day of the rebellion on 21 June. Tanaji Sawant was part of the 2014-19 Devendra Fadnavis-led cabinet as a Shiv Sena minister, while Sanjay Rathod was part of the MVA cabinet until his resignation in 2021.
There were talks of senior Shiv Sena MLA Sanjay Shirsat being upset after being left out of the list Tuesday. Shirsat was among the first to join Shinde and had also helped arrange the rebellion, sources from the Shinde camp said.
He, however, told reporters Tuesday that there is no resentment among any MLA of the Shinde camp: “The CM took a meeting of all of us and explained his stand, and how we should work as an alliance. There is no question of resentment among any MLA.”
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
Source: The Print