No portfolios 3 days after Maharashtra Cabinet expansion , but ministers get offices
On Thursday, the Shive Sena confirmed that there is disquiet among Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies. The Sena said that although the cabinet expansion was delayed, a “strong and an experienced” cabinet has been set up.
Three days after the expansion of his council of ministers, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has been unable to allocate portfolios, although the Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)-Congress government allotted offices and residences to ministers on Thursday.
The Congress has sought one more portfolio with a rural connect, which has not been accepted by Thackeray yet. Within Congress, there is a tussle for the revenue department between state Congress president Balasaheb Thorat and former chief minister Ashok Chavan. Other senior ministers too want influential departments.
Meanwhile, Anil Deshmukh of the NCP is likely to be the new home minister of the state. Deshmukh’s name emerged after Ajit Pawar chose not to take up the portfolio for the time being. The deputy chief minister is wary of the court’s possible objection to him heading the department when the police are probing his role in the irrigation scam.
On Thursday, the Sena confirmed that there is disquiet among Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies. The Sena said that although the cabinet expansion was delayed, a “strong and an experienced” cabinet has been set up.
In the day, senior Congress leaders met at Vidhan Bhavan to discuss the matter as the chief minister had refused to make changes in the portfolios as sought by the Congress on Wednesday.
In the evening, they had a meeting with senior Sena leaders at Puratan, official bungalow of senior Sena minister Subhash Desai.
“It is not a big thing. The matter is related to just one department. Most of the senior ministers of Congress were not in Mumbai, while the CM (Uddhav Thackeray) was also busy with the Maharashtra Police Raising Day event,” said Chavan on Thursday.
Sharad Pawar, NCP chief, too refuted any discontent among the three parties over portfolios. “Nobody in the state’s ruling coalition is unhappy over portfolio allocation,” Pawar said.
Congress is insisting on a portfolio that has a rural connect and is demanding either the agriculture department, rural development department (RDD) or cooperation department. Sena has got agriculture department, while NCP has the two departments — rural development and cooperation. Both parties are unwilling to let go of their departments.
The Sena, in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana, said there was a tussle between Ashok Chavan and Balasaheb Thorat over the revenue portfolio.
“There is smoke rising within the Congress over the portfolio distribution. Former chief minister Ashok Chavan is in the cabinet and he has to be given a respectable portfolio. The portfolio that could match his experience is revenue [department]. But Congress’s Balasaheb Thorat currently has the portfolio. It will have to be seen what is being decided on the issue,” the editorial said.
“Chavan has told party leadership that the party precedent is to give revenue department to the former chief minister and thus the department should be given to him,” said a senior party functionary, requesting not to be named.
Meanwhile, the NCP has readied its list, said the party insiders.
Ajit Pawar is likely to head finance department, while home is likely to be given to Deshmukh. State NCP chief Jayant Patil is likely to handle water resources (irrigation), Chhagan Bhujbal is likely to get food and civil supplies while Dilip Walse-Patil is likely to get excise portfolio. Housing department is likely to be given to Jitendra Awhad and health is likely to go to Rajesh Tope. Rajendra Shingne is likely to be minister for food and drug administration, Nawab Malik likely to be labour minister while Dhanjay Munde is likely to be minister for social justice.
Party insiders said that following the debate in the top brass over the propriety of giving home department to Ajit Pawar when he is facing an anti-corruption bureau probe, the deputy chief minister chose not to take the portfolio till he is cleared of the charges. Since Patil and Walse-Patil were not keen on handling the department for a short period, it is likely to be given to Deshmukh, said a senior leader of the party.
The state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) recently gave Pawar a clean chit in the irrigation corruption cases, but it has not been ratified by the court yet. Pawar is also named as an accused in a complaint filed by the economic offences wing and enforcement directorate in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam.
Meanwhile, Thackeray on Thursday allotted bungalows and offices to all 36 ministers sworn in on Monday. Ajit Pawar got Devgiri bungalow , Ashok Chavan got Meghdoot, Walse-Patil Shivgiri and Deshmukh got Dyaneshwari bungalow, among others.
Meanwhile, meeting between the three parties went on for almost four hours on Thursday evening. Chavan said that the Congress has sent their proposal for portfolio allocation to the chief minister (Uddhav Thackeray) and the decision has to be taken by him. “As it’s a three-party coalition government and it is impossible to accommodate all leaders, we will see how all of them will be given some work in the new government,” he said.