Maha cabinet expansion likely before winter; CM to meet Uddhav

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is likely to expand his cabinet before the winter session of the state legislature next month and in an apparent bid to placate restless allies, who may find a renewed voice in the wake of the BJP’s poll debacle in Bihar, will call on Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray before the move.

The much-awaited expansion of the council of ministers may happen before the beginning of the session in Nagpur, slated for December 7.

“I would meet the Sena chief soon after Diwali festival,” Fadnavis told reporters here today.

Meanwhile, state PWD Minister Chandrakant Patil told PTI that there are 12 vacancies at present in the council of ministers.

“Out of the 12 vacancies, two will go to Shiv Sena and four to smaller allies. The Chief Minister will take a call on whether to fill up all the six vacancies from the BJP quota or keep two pending,” he said.

Sources said it is unlikely that Fadnavis will fill up all the 12 vacancies at one go.

A BJP leader said the party is likely to induct four ministers in the cabinet and elevate its minister of state for Home (Rural) Ram Shinde to cabinet rank.

“Fadnavis, during his recent visit to New Delhi, got the nod from the party leadership for the expansion of cabinet,” the leader said.

Among BJP probables who are in reckoning are senior leaders like Pandurang Phundkar (MLC) besides Mangalprabhat Lodha, Chainsukh Sancheti and Jaykumar Rawal (all MLAs).

Fadnavis took oath as the Chief Minister on October 31 last year with seven cabinet and two ministers of state.

When Shiv Sena joined the government later, the strength of the ministry increased from 10, including CM, to 30. At present, there are 20 ministers from BJP and ten from Sena.

Though Sena has quota of two ministers in the upcoming expansion, there are at least four contenders from the party for cabinet berths, and names of senior leaders Neelam Gorhe, Gulabrao Patil, Arjun Khotkar, Sujit Minchekar and Rajesh Kshirsagar are doing the rounds.

The likely contenders from BJP allies are Mahadev Jankar of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP), Vinayak Mete of Shiv Sangram (both MLCs), Sadabhau Khot of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna and RPI-A leader Avinash Mahatekar.

As Khot and Mahatekar are not members of legislature, they will have to get elected to one of the two Houses within six months of taking oath.

Currently, the Assembly has only one vacancy for Palghar (ST) reserved seat, a few vacancies are likely to be created in the Legislative Council next year and Khot and Mahatekar can be accommodated, according to sources.