Shiv Sena anger casts a shadow over swearing-in

Suresh Prabhu during the swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Suresh Prabhu during the swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy


Within hours of swearing in Suresh Prabhu as Cabinet Minister, apparently on the Shiv Sena quota on Sunday, an act that annoyed that party’s leadership, the BJP inducted him in to its own ranks here.

The swiftness of the BJP’s action has upstaged Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray who was expected to make an announcement at 4pm in Mumbai after a party meeting.

Earlier in the day, the Sena’s unhappiness with the BJP cast a shadow over the first expansion of the Union Council of Ministers.

If Union Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Anant Geete, the Sena’s representative in the Union Cabinet, chose to stay away from the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan, his party colleague, Anil Desai, who was to be inducted as an MoS, flew back to Mumbai from Delhi Airport itself, after receiving a telephone call from party boss Uddhav Thackeray.

This comes against the backdrop of the continuing battle in Maharashtra over the portfolios that the Sena has been campaigning for in the BJP-led government recently sworn in there, as well as the swearing-in on Sunday of Sena leader and a former union environment minister Suresh Prabhu as a Cabinet Minister.

Mr. Prabhu is seen as the choice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not of Mr. Thackeray – and this has annoyed the Sena.

Indeed, there is speculation in Delhi that Mr. Prabhu will soon be joining the BJP – in any case, he is not yet a member of either House and will have to be found a Rajya Sabha seat.

Apart from Mr. Prabhu, the only other new Minister, who belongs to an allied party and was sworn in on Sunday is the Telugu Desam Party’s Yalamanchili Satyanarayana Chowdary, the industrialist-turned-politician. He is known to be close to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and is one of the party’s chief fund raisers.

The induction of Mr. Prabhu and Mr. Chowdary swells the representation of the BJP’s allied parties to seven in the Union Cabinet, if Mr. Geete continues to remain in government.

After Sunday’s expansion, there are five non-BJP Cabinet Ministers, including Mr. Geete, Mr. Prabhu, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP), Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju (TDP) and Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal). Of the MoSs, apart from Mr. Chowdary – there is Upendra Kushwaha of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that Mr. Thackeray has called a meeting of his party MLAs and leaders in Mumbai to discuss the latest developments and is likely to make an announcement on Sunday evening.

Sunday’s drama was not unexpected. The BJP, which won an overwhelming mandate in the general elections earlier this year is clearly working towards a situation where it can dispense with allies.

Ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly elections, the BJP broke a 25-year-old partnership with the Sena and emerged as the single largest party in the State; in Haryana, it broke with partner Haryana Janhit Congress and won a majority on its own. In Punjab, the indications are that it will contest the next State elections on its own, dispensing with the SAD, with which it runs the State right now.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 9:47:13 AM |

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