Maharashtra Cabinet Expansion: The BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will complete one year on June 30. Both the veteran leaders now have a tough task of delivering results in the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The work of making political strategies for the upcoming elections has started. Processes like making pre-election alliances, seat sharing formula, campaign and public relations are going on in this.
Amidst all this, the issue of Maharashtra cabinet expansion is posing a challenge to both the senior leaders, but what is stopping Shinde and Fadnavis from expanding the cabinet for almost a year now? Shinde and Fadnavis ran the government single-handedly for about 41 days, after being sworn in as CM and Deputy CM respectively. In the first cabinet expansion, he included 18 MLAs out of which 9 were from BJP and 9 were from Shiv Sena.
23 posts are vacant in the Council of Ministers
With this, the total strength of the state cabinet had gone up to 20, including the CM and the deputy CM. The state cabinet can have 43 ministers which means that since last one year 23 posts are vacant in the Council of Ministers. Fadnavis has said many times that he wants to expand the cabinet and it will be done at an appropriate time. He again reiterated on Monday that the cabinet expansion will happen soon in the state and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde will decide when it will happen. Along with this, he also said that Shinde-led Shiv Sena and BJP will fight all the elections together.
Why not expanding the cabinet?
According to the Indian Express, Shinde and Fadnavis decided to tread carefully as the number of candidates exceeded the quota. Party leaders have said the purpose of stalling the next cabinet expansion was to avoid an internal squabble that has the potential to destabilize the newly formed government. Apart from this, Shinde and Fadnavis also made a strategy to keep the hopes of the candidates alive to avoid rift within their respective parties.
What happened in the Shinde group?
The Shinde faction consists of 40 MLAs who had turned rebels and joined Shinde after leaving the Uddhav Thackeray-led party. Apart from these, there are also independents in the Shinde faction. However, Shinde cannot make all the MLAs ministers and most of them want nothing less than ministerial berths. On several occasions, MLAs Sanjay Shirsat and Bharat Gogawale have said that we have been promised ministerial berths in the next cabinet expansion.
Many times these MLAs have also expressed their displeasure. A source in the Shinde camp revealed that for a year we were made to understand that we should wait for the Supreme Court’s decision, as the court’s decision was crucial for the government’s survival. We are now told that the court has handed over the decision on the disqualification of the 16 MLAs, the validity of the chief whip and the status of the Shiv Sena party to Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar. This decision of the Supreme Court came on 11 May.
Fadnavis’s signal to the MLAs
Talking about BJP, Devendra Fadnavis had asked the workers, MLAs and office bearers to work selflessly towards the organization in the BJP’s state executive meeting held in Pune last month. He said don’t aspire for any position. Take care of sacrifice and selfless service, dedicate one year to the party. With that statement, Fadnavis aimed to send a message to the MLAs that they should not strive for cabinet berths.
BJP is a big party, but ministerial posts are less!
Despite being the largest party in this alliance, the BJP with 105 MLAs had to satisfy only nine ministerial posts and Shinde, with the support of 50 MLAs, also got nine ministers in the first cabinet expansion. BJP leaders have been talking about getting more representation than Shiv Sena (Shinde) in the state cabinet. His argument is that the BJP should get two-thirds of the posts and the Shinde camp should be given one-third of the posts.
Elections are also to be held in Maharashtra next year. While the Lok Sabha elections are scheduled for April-May 2024, the Maharashtra assembly elections are likely to be held in November. When Shinde and Fadnavis took over the reins of the state last year, they knew they had only two-and-a-half years left before these crucial elections. Now after a year, it seems both the leaders are facing challenges. The reason for this is the weak and incomplete Council of Ministers. Along with this, the opposition is also continuously raising this issue and targeting the government.
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