MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today expanded his council of ministers by inducting 10 new faces and elevating BJP’s Ram Shinde to Cabinet rank, leaving the bickering ally Shiv Sena to settle for two additional Ministers of State.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray skipped the swearing-in ceremony.
The exercise, which reflected 45-year-old Fadnavis tightening his hold on the first ever BJP-led regime in the state, raised the strength of the ministry to 41, of which 27 are from the BJP, 12 from Shiv Sena and two from minor partners like Rashtriya Samaj Party and Swabhimani Party.
Six legislators were today sworn-in as Cabinet ministers, including Shinde who was earlier MoS (Home), while two from the Sena took oath as Ministers of State at the ceremony held at Vidhan Bhawan here.
Governor C Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers.
Besides Shinde, Pandurang Fundkar, Jaykumar Rawal, Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar and Subhash Deshmukh were inducted as Cabinet ministers BJP’s ally Rashtriya Samaj Party’s (RSP) Mahadev Jankar too was inducted as a Cabinet minister.
The BJP did not oblige the demand for an additional Cabinet berth from Sena.
Sena’s Arjun Khotkar and Gulabrao Patil, BJP’s Ravindra Chavan, Madan Yerawar and Swabhimani Party’s Sadabhau Khot were inducted as MoS.
With today’s expansion 24 ministers are of Cabinet rank while 17 are Ministers of State.
Among the Cabinet ministers, 18 are from the BJP, 5 from Shiv Sena and one of Rashtriya Samaj Party. Out of the 17 MoS, BJP has 9, Sena-7 and Swabhimani Party-1.
The main opposition Congress kept away from the ceremony, saying that the state was not going to benefit from the exercise in any way.
“We were not too keen on participating in the event because there was no quality in the expansion. Maharashtra will not benefit in any way from this expansion. The BJP is only indulging in ‘Apna saath apna vikas’. This was a quantitative expansion, not a qualitative one,” MPCC president Ashok Chavan told PTI.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar said there was no need for his party to boycott the event.
“Sunil Tatkare, Dhananjay Munde were present at the swearing-in ceremony. Jayant Patil was in Sangli for the election of Zilla Parishad president. Dilip Walse Patil was busy in some meeting. But our main party leaders were present,” he said. . Shiv Sena and BJP had severed their alliance on the eve of the Assembly polls in 2014, which saw the latter emerging as the single largest party, falling short of a simple majority.
Fadnavis then formed a minority government with the outside support of the NCP. Sena, however, joined the ministry a few months later, though it failed to get some plum portfolios it wished for.
Though Sena returned to the alliance, it has continued to needle the senior partner over a host of issues, often through its official organ Saamana.
The long-awaited ministry expansion has also factored in the resignation of the BJP strongman Eknath Khadse last month after coming under a cloud in the wake of a host of allegations against him.
Fundkar, a former 3-time Lok Sabha member from Akola constituency, is a former state president of BJP and also had served as Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council.
Rawal, the BJP MLA from Dondaicha (Dhule), was a few years back suspended for allegedly beating a policeman in the Maharashtra Legislature premises.
He was later made one of the general secretaries of the BJP.
Nilangekar represents Nilanga Assembly constituency in Latur district. He has also been one of the general secretaries of the party.
Deshmukh is a former member of the Lok Sabha, representing Solapur constituency.
Shinde was Minister of State (Home) before his elevation.
He represents Karjat Jamkhed Assembly constituency.
Hailing from Satara district, Jankar was elected as Member of Legislative Council on January 23, 2015. While taking oath, Jankar invoked late BJP leader Gopinath Munde’s name.
Sena’s Arjun Khotkar, who was sworn in as MoS today, belongs to Jalna district of Marathwada. He is a four-term party MLA, who was also a junior minister in Sena-BJP government in 1999.
Gulabrao Patil, known for his aggressive and fiery speeches, is a three-time Sena MLA from Jalgaon rural seat.
BJP’s Ravindra Chavan, sworn-in as Mos today, is a second-term BJP MLA from Dombivali. Madan Yerawar, considered a protege of Union minister Nitin Gadkari,represents the BJP from Yavatmal Assembly constituency.
Swabhimani Party leader Sadabhau Khot, a well-known farmers’ leader in Maharashtra, has been in the forefront of the sugarcane farmers agitation in western Maharashtra. He had also unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Madha.–PTI