Maharashtra’s newly sworn-in Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, along with his group of Nationalist Congress Party leaders, met Cabinet colleague and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on July 3 and discussed the allocation of portfolios in the Cabinet.
“They discussed a range of issues, including the allocation of portfolios. They also deliberated on the disqualification petition moved by the other faction against the nine legislators,” a senior leader told The Hindu. The weekly Cabinet meeting is likely to be held on July 5.
As the long-anticipated reshuffle and expansion of the Maharashtra Cabinet is scheduled for this month, which was confirmed by Mr. Fadnavis recently, it is expected that significant portfolios will be allotted to the NCP ministers, and this has created unrest among Ministers and MLAs of the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.
“With nine of their MLAs directly joining the Cabinet, our chances of getting crucial portfolios are very thin now. We have expressed our displeasure with Mr. Shinde over NCP leaders joining hands with the existing coalition as that was the reason why we revolted against [Shiv Sena (UBT)] leader Uddhav Thackery and came with the current Chief Minister,” a senior Shiv Sena leader told The Hindu on condition of anonymity.
He expressed belief that this will lead to the ‘return’ of some steadfast Sena leaders to the Thackeray camp. “We can forget about any further leaders from Uddhav Saheb’s group joining us. Instead, our own leaders, including some MLAs who feel stifled, may revert back. Many of us will struggle to get re-elected if the situation remains unchanged,” a Shiv Sainik said.
He further added, “Since they [NCP leaders] are seniors and won’t settle for ‘small portfolios’, it is us who will suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, the BJP MLAs are eagerly waiting for the Cabinet expansion,” he said.
Mr. Shinde held a closed-door meeting with Sena ministers, MLAs, and party workers in Thane after the Guru Purnima event where he paid tributes to his mentor Anand Dighe and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
NCP legislature wing leader
Minutes after being sacked by the NCP supremo as the working president of the party, rebel MP Praful Patel on Monday announced the appointment of Lok Sabha member Sunil Tatkare as the party’s State unit chief, replacing Jayant Patil, Mr. Ajit Pawar as its legislature wing leader, and Anil Bhaidas Patil as the chief whip. Mr. Patil was among the ministers who took oath on Sunday.
“As he is our guru, we request him [Mr. Sharad Pawar] with folded hands to give us his blessings on the occasion of Guru Purnima,” Mr. Patel said.
Mr. Ajit Pawar said the majority of MLAs were with him and that was why he took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister. “I learnt that they moved a disqualification petition against nine of us. They have no right as the party and symbol are with us. It is meaningless,” he said. “In fact, I gave a petition to the Speaker to disqualify MLAs Jayant Patil and Jitendra Awhad from the House. Both Mr. Jayant Patil and Mr. Awhad are with Mr. Sharad Pawar.
“Whatever we are doing is in the interest of the party. We will strengthen our party further,” he said.
Asked who will be the national president of the party, Mr. Ajit Pawar said: “Have you forgotten that Sharad Pawar is the party’s national president.”
Meanwhile, in a significant setback to Mr. Ajit Pawar’s faction, NCP MP Amol Kolhe has pledged his support to the party supremo Mr. Sharad Pawar, a day after joining hands with the Shinde-Fadnavis-Pawar government. “I attended the swearing-in ceremony yesterday, but it is my conscience that has guided this decision. I will be meeting Pawar Saheb tomorrow,” the actor-turned-politician said.