Resentment in Shinde’s Sena over induction of NCP ministers

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Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde might have publicly welcomed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rebels led by Ajit Pawar, but underneath the surface, the move has not gone down well within the Shinde-led Shiv Sena, multiple party leaders told ThePrint Tuesday.

After Ajit Pawar and eight other MLAs from the NCP formally joined the Maharashtra cabinet Sunday, CM Shinde called them the government’s “third engine” that will help it “run like a bullet train”.

However, MLAs are worried on multiple fronts. Shinde camp MLAs had been waiting for a cabinet expansion to get a bigger share of the pie for almost a year. With the induction of nine NCP MLAs in the cabinet, the state now has only 14 vacant cabinet berths as against 23 before the Ajit Pawar-led faction joined the government. 

Moreover, party leaders say, at certain places from where NCP heavyweights have joined the government, legislators are also worried about losing candidature if the BJP, Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP faction were to contest together.

There is anxiety in facing the electorate as well, some MLAs said, considering they had cited differences with the NCP and Ajit Pawar as one of the reasons for rebelling against the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government last year, causing it to fall.

The MVA government comprised the then undivided Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray, the NCP and the Congress. In June last year, Shinde walked out of the government with 39 MLAs in tow, toppled the Thackeray-led government and joined hands with the BJP to form a new administration with himself as CM and the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as Deputy CM.

Sources from the BJP, Shinde-led Sena and the NCP said the resentment was delaying allocation of cabinet portfolios to the newly appointed NCP ministers — as ministers from the Shiv Sena as well as the BJP don’t want to part with their portfolios.

Many of the NCP leaders who have joined have been senior experienced ministers who will expect heavyweight departments, they added.

“Party leaders are disturbed for sure,” an MP with the Shinde-led Shiv Sena told ThePrint. “MLAs who have been actively vying for cabinet positions are rattled as the government will now have to accommodate members from all three parties in the remaining 14 berths. The Shiv Sena’s guardian ministers for districts from where tall NCP leaders have joined the government are also worried as there is likely to be friction now,” the MP added.

For instance, Chhagan Bhujbal, considered to be among the strongest OBC leaders in Maharashtra, is from the Nashik district where the Shiv Sena’s Dada Bhuse is guardian minister. Bhujbal is among the nine NCP ministers to join the Shinde-led cabinet.

Similarly, Uday Samant is guardian minister from Ratnagiri and Raigad districts in the Konkan region from where senior NCP leader Sunil Tatkare’s daughter Aditi Tatkare has joined the cabinet.

Party sources told ThePrint Shinde has tried to quell the resentment within his party over the induction of Pawar and other NCP ministers by promising another cabinet expansion in the next eight to ten days, possibly before the monsoon session of the state legislature starting 17 July.


Also Read: How NCP’s Pawar vs Pawar feud is in keeping with Maharashtra’s tradition of uncle-nephew conflicts


‘Everyone’s a little disappointed’

The induction of the Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction in the government of the BJP and the Shinde-led Shiv Sena is seen as a move that will diminish the Shinde camp’s political leverage with the BJP.

The national party, which has 105 MLAs in the state, will not have to solely depend on the Shinde camp’s 40 MLAs and 10 independents to hold on to Maharashtra, although the exact number of MLAs that Ajit Pawar brings with him is still unclear.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Shiv Sena’s Bharat Gogawale, MLA from the Mahad constituency in the Raigad district, tried to strike a cautious note.

Gogawale has been an aspirant for a cabinet seat right since the first expansion took place in August last year and told reporters Tuesday morning that he was expecting to be accommodated in the next one. 

“What will we do now by being resentful? Yes, everyone will be a little disappointed because the person who wanted to eat one full bhakri (flatbread) will now get only half, the person who wanted to eat half a bhakri, will now get only a quarter. But, if we have to go ahead maintaining a political equation, we have to accept all of this,” Gogawale said, adding as of now that Shinde camp leaders are happy with a quarter of a bhakri. 

Shiv Sena sources said, the nine ministers of the party, excluding Shinde, already in the cabinet don’t want NCP ministers to get creamy portfolios and had met CM Shinde at his private residence in Thane to voice these concerns Monday.

When the CM allocated portfolios after the first cabinet expansion in August last year, he kept 13 departments with himself and gave seven to Deputy CM Fadnavis, leaving open the possibility of allocating some of these to future ministers of the cabinet.

The 20 departments between the CM and Deputy CM include some portfolios considered to be key such as urban development, housing, finance, home, energy, and transport.

‘Will be tough to explain to voters’

Another Shiv Sena MLA, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint that although there were talks about the possibility of the NCP joining the government for a few months now, most of the MLAs had no clue about Sunday’s oath-taking ceremony till the eleventh hour.

“There is definitely some resentment. When everything was going well, what was the need to get these people on board? It shrinks opportunities for us. And last year we had pointed fingers at these very people when we left the MVA government. Now, it is going to be a task explaining this to our voters,” he said.

MLA Suhas Kande, who represents the Nandgaon constituency in Nashik district, Bhujbal’s home turf, however, tried to play down the discontent among leaders of the Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

“When we went to Gujarat with Shinde saheb, we gambled our political career. We never thought our government would come to power, Shinde saheb will be CM. We have and will continue to be on board with any decision Shinde saheb takes for us,” he told ThePrint.

“In a family of five, there are bound to be two or three who disagree with the call that the head of the family has made. We are 40 MLAs, so there are bound to be a few who are unhappy or disappointed,” he added.

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)


Also Read: ‘BJP washing machine in action’ — Opposition cries foul citing cases against NCP leaders


 

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