New Delhi: Maharashtra’s cabinet was expanded Friday to accommodate rebel Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislators who took oath as ministers in the BJP-Shiv Sena government on 2 July.
After long-drawn negotiations – over who would get what – rebel leader Ajit Pawar was given finance and planning. Pawar is also the state’s deputy chief minister, a post he shares with the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis.
Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal has got food and civil supplies, while Dhananjay Munde is the state’s new agriculture minister.
Aditi Tatkare was given women and child development, while Dilip Walse Patil got revenue, animal husbandry, and dairy development.
Sanjay Bansode was made the sports and youth welfare minister.
Dharamraobaba Atram will head the drug and administration (FDA) portfolio and Hasan Mushrif will manage the medical education department
These nine MLAs, along with MPs Praful Patel and Aditi’s father Sunil Tatkare, have been expelled by NCP founder and Ajit Pawar’s uncle Sharad Pawar for anti-party activities.
In a show of strength soon after the defections, Ajit Pawar managed more hands than his uncle as both factions started a war of one-upmanship, sacking each other’s men and appointing their own to party positions.
Ajit Pawar also wrote to the Election Commission, staking claim to the original party name and its symbol. He needs 36 MLAs to bypass the anti-defection law.
ThePrint reported this week that the entry of the NCP rebels had sparked dissent within the BJP and the Sena camps since there were now more aspirants than available posts. Many in Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s camp have put pressure on him because they have been waiting for a berth even a year after forming the government with the BJP.
Ironically, one of the reasons given by the now CM for leaving Maharashtra’s erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government — an alliance of the NCP, Congress, and undivided Shiv Sena — was the way MVA’s finance minister Ajit Pawar was allocating funds.