Denied Cabinet berths, Shinde and Ajit camps strike discordant notes

Shrirang Barne, Lok Sabha member from Maval in Pune, said with the Maharashtra Assembly election barely three months away, the BJP could have given a Cabinet berth and an MoS to the Sena

Updated - June 10, 2024 10:11 pm IST

Published - June 10, 2024 09:44 pm IST - Pune

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde with the deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde with the deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. | Photo Credit: ANI

Barely 24 hours after the swearing-in of the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) new Council of Ministers under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, discordant notes were sounded on June 10 by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Mahayuti allies — the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — whose leaders expressed disappointment at their parties not getting Cabinet berths while accusing the BJP of being ‘partial’ towards other NDA constituents.

Shinde Sena leader Shrirang Barne, Lok Sabha member from Maval in Pune, who retained his seat in this election, said his party, despite winning seven of the 15 seats it contested, ought to have been given a Cabinet ministership along with a Minister of State (MoS) position.

“H. D. Kumaraswamy [of the Janata Dal (Secular)] with two MPs was given a Cabinet berth. Likewise, despite Jiten Ram Manjhi [Hindustan Awami Morcha] being the sole elected MP of his party, he was made a Cabinet Minister. Chirag Paswan [Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas)] who got five MPs, less than the Shiv Sena, was made a Cabinet Minister. Considering our strike rate, we certainly deserved a Cabinet berth and an MoS. Likewise, even Ajit Pawar’s NCP deserved a Cabinet berth,” said Mr. Barne, who defeated the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate to win the Maval seat for the third time.

Both the Sena and the NCP were given an MoS (independent charge) post by the BJP. While the Shinde Sena accepted it, with Buldhana MP Prataprao Jadhav sworn-in on Sunday, Mr. Pawar turned down the offer, saying he would not settle for anything less than a Cabinet berth and was willing to wait till the next Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr. Barne said as the Maharashtra Assembly election was barely three months away, the BJP could have given a Cabinet berth and an MoS to the Sena as a gesture.

“Of the 28 seats that the BJP fought on, it won only nine seats, while we, the Shinde-led Sena won seven of 15. The Shiv Sena is viewed as an old friend of the BJP. But it appears the BJP is meting step-brotherly treatment to us,” he said.

NCP MLA Anna Bansode expressed a similar sentiment and said both Mr. Pawar and Mr. Shinde had taken “a big decision” by breaking away with their original parties and aligning with the BJP.

“Maharashtra’s expectation was that both the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the Ajit Pawar-led NCP be awarded Cabinet berths. We have two MPs in Sunil Tatkare and Praful Patel. Our party’s expectation was that at least Mr. Patel, who has been a Cabinet minister in the past, be given a berth this time. Hence, the cadre of these parties are upset by our parties being excluded from the Union Cabinet,” said Mr. Bansode, an MLA from Pimpri in Pune.

However, Mr. Shinde’s son, Shrikant Shinde, reacting to Mr. Barne’s statement, said his party had already made it clear that it was supporting Mr. Modi’s government unconditionally.

“This nation has asked for, and needs, the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. There is no bargaining or negotiation for power. We have extended unconditional support to an ideological coalition. We want Mr. Modi to carry forward the noble work of nation building. Our party and all its MLAs and MPs are faithfully committed to the NDA,” Mr. Shrikant said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) had a field day with the discomfiture within the Mahayuti, with Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut mocking Mr. Shinde’s Sena by saying: “The BJP has put this ‘nakli’ (false) Shiv Sena in its place. This is what you get when you decide to be someone’s slaves. Ajit Pawar’s NCP has not even got anything.”

Congress leader and Leader of the Opposition in Vijay Wadettiwar said if the Mr. Pawar-led NCP does not accept the MoS post, it ought to forget about getting any Cabinet berth in the future.

“Their [Ajit Pawar faction’s] bargaining power is over. It is a case of eat whatever you get. Within the next couple of months, 40 MLAs from both the Shinde Sena and the Ajit Pawar-led NCP will return back to their original parties,” said Mr. Wadettiwar.

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