A day after his meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday refuted speculation that they had discussed an expansion of the State cabinet.
Speaking to reporters in Aurangabad, Mr. Fadnavis said that the much-delayed second phase expansion would be carried out “at an appropriate time.”
“Our meeting with Mr. Shah was focused on issues pertaining to the cooperative sector and sugar industry. We did not discuss cabinet expansion,” said the Deputy CM, who had met the Home Minister along with CM Eknath Shinde.
Mr. Shinde and Mr. Fadnavis had taken power on June 30, 2022 by forming the new Shiv Sena (Shinde camp)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government after Mr. Shinde’s intra-party revolt had toppled the Uddhav Thackeray-led tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi government. However, the first phase of the cabinet expansion had taken place in August after almost 40 days, drawing sharp criticism from the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena and the other MVA parties, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress.
At the time, only 18 ministers – nine MLAs from the Shinde camp and nine from the BJP – were sworn in by adhering to a 50:50 division formula between the two allies, despite the permissible limit being 43 ministers.
With the Shinde-Fadnavis government having completed seven months, the long delay has sparked disgruntlement within both the Shinde faction as well as the BJP, with seething resentment among aspirant leaders in both parties.