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Expanding Worries

Monday, July 11, 2016
By Prashant Hamine

A look at the weekly turn of events, the rights and the ruses on the political scene

So after almost a year in keeping everybody in waiting, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis finally expanded his state cabinet last week. From the day the Fadnavis cabinet took the oath of office in October 2014, almost all his cabinet colleagues were juggling more than one ministry at a time. In the case of former Revenue minister Eknath Khadse, he was handling almost 10 major ministries like Agriculture, Revenue, Minority Affairs and others. It was affecting governance, controversies and allegations were swirling around like a storm. To wriggle out of that situation, cabinet expansion was the best solution. But in the end has he given into his allies more than what he had bargained for?

At a later stage of the expansion it all became too evidently agonizing with even the allies hitting out at will.

Two of the biggest “setbacks” of this cabinet expansion exercise for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Fadnavis have been that to keep the estranged Shiv Sena in good humour they had to be given one of the Ministers of State for Home portfolios and also increase the decision making and administrative powers of its junior ranking ministers. The biggest headache is the last minute elevation of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) leader and MLC from BJP’s own quota Mahadev Jankar to cabinet rank minister and demotion of its own senior MLA Madan Yerawar to minister of state rank.

The capitulation was evident from the fact that BJP president Raosaheb Danve had to ink a deal with senior Sena leader and minister Subhash Desai allocating one MoS Home and increasing powers of their MoS. Secondly, the BJP had to give in to the stubborn stance of Jankar who insisted on a cabinet rank ministry and got away with it. Besides that the series of allegations against his own ministers (including new ones) and a resurgent opposition Congress thanks to the entry of former chief minister Narayan Rane into the upper house.

At such a time more than anything else Fadnavis needs support and it did come from party president Amit Shah’s trusted aide and Minister for Cooperation, Chandrakant Patil, who also happens to be member of the upper house. In doing so the party has overlooked Minister for School Education Vinod Tawde who earlier was a member of the upper house. Fadnavis needs Patil’s support to keep Rane in check. Though, Rane may prove handy in tackling the Sena as r both BJP and Rane would love to settle scores with the Sena as 2017 BMC elections approach.

Besides that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and its leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde will have to deal with a leader of the stature  of Rane. Like the BJP has kept the Sena guessing on whether it will give the post of Deputy Speaker in the legislative assembly to it.

The NCP too is keeping the Congress guessing on whether it will really give the post of Deputy Chairman in the legislative council to it. Remember the NCP with the tacit support of the BJP had ousted senior Congress MLC Shivajirao Deshmukh from the post.

If cabinet expansion was one worry, the other was reallocating the portfolios to keep everybody happy.

The fact that the list of reallocated ministries did not come in the evening of July 8 itself suggested that it was not a smooth affair and that it was hard to meet the ever growing demands of everyone. The expansion and reshuffle did not have the clear imprint of the BMC elections on it. Though the reappointment of Senas most hated rival Ashish Shelar as Mumbai BJP president is clear indication that its war of supremacy with the Sena has not died down. Though Fadnavis has tried to fine balance everyone and everything through the cabinet expansion and reshuffle, the worries have just begun to expand.

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