Mumbai: Despite expanding the cabinet, the Maharashtra government still remains a two-man show with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis keeping most plum portfolios with themselves.
Between them, the CM and Deputy CM have kept 20 portfolios with themselves. The portfolio allocation, especially to BJP ministers, also bears a Fadnavis stamp with leaders close to him having gotten important departments and other party stalwarts being visibly shortchanged.
“It is a concentration of power. Fadnavis has kept all important portfolios with him. The CM and deputy CM have kept some of Aaditya Thackeray’s former departments as well, which they didn’t need to,” political commentator Hemant Desai told ThePrint.
“In this government, Fadnavis is like the CM of the BJP in one way, and his style of favouring his aides and clipping the wings of his potential challengers has still not changed,” he added.
Speaking to reporters, Deputy CM Fadnavis said, “The portfolio allocation has been done by our CM Eknath ji Shinde and I am confident that all ministers will do their best to deliver good governance in Maharashtra.”
Key departments with CM, DCM
For forty days after the new government of the BJP and rebel Shiv Sena MLAs was formed, there were only two ministers in the cabinet — the CM and Deputy CM. Sources from both sides had said that the cabinet expansion was delayed because negotiations over who to include in the cabinet were still underway and the newly-formed government also wanted to see what the Supreme Court says on disqualification petitions against rebel Sena MLAs by the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena.
Shinde and Fadnavis finally expanded their cabinet last week inducting 18 ministers – nine from the BJP and nine from the rebel Shiv Sena faction.
The portfolio allocation, however, took five more days, drawing criticism from the Opposition.
Shiv Sena MLA Aaditya Thackeray tweeted saying the focus is “on the government and not governance.”
“When the focus is on Government and not Governance, it takes 41 days for cabinet expansion (with a promise of another one), and then 5 days for portfolio allocation (with a major imbalance of power), in a dispensation with no representation for women and State’s capital- Mumbai,” Thackeray said.
Chief Minister Shinde has kept 13 departments, including key ones such as urban development, public works department (public undertakings) and transport. He has also retained environment, a department that Thackeray scion Aaditya had passionately held during the MVA government.
Shinde was in charge of urban development in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government before he led a rebellion of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs and walked out to form a government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The MVA government comprised the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and Congress.
Shinde had also held the PWD (public undertakings) portfolio—under which the government’s showpiece Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway project is being implemented—between 2014 and 2019 when Fadnavis was the CM of a BJP-Shiv Sena government.
A statement from the chief minister’s office also said, “The CM will take care of any portfolio that has not been allocated to any minister in the cabinet.”
Deputy CM Fadnavis on the other hand has seven departments. Significantly, Fadnavis has been allocated departments such as home, finance, housing, and energy.
When the focus is on Government and not Governance, it takes 41 days for cabinet expansion (with a promise of another one), and then 5 days for portfolio allocation (with a major imbalance of power), in a dispensation with no representation for women and State’s capital- Mumbai.
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) August 14, 2022
The Fadnavis stamp
Senior BJP Ministers such as Chandrakant Patil and Sudhir Mungantiwar have not got a share of any of the most significant portfolios in the government. Patil was a former revenue minister in the 2014-2019 Fadnavis cabinet while Mungantiwar was a former finance minister in the state cabinet.
Party sources said, the two leaders were expected to get key departments in the Shinde-Fadnavis cabinet, especially as the party leadership decided to drop Patil as BJP state president and replace him with Chandrashekhar Bawankule.
While Patil has got higher and technical education, textiles, and parliamentary affairs, Mungantiwar has been allotted the departments of forests, cultural affairs, and fisheries. Mungantiwar had held the forests portfolio in the 2014 to 2019 cabinet too along with finance.
Mungantiwar is said to be a loyalist of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, while Patil is known to be close to Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Leaders known to be close to Fadnavis such as Girish Mahajan, Atul Save, and Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil have got strong portfolios. Mahajan has been given the medical education department, rural development and panchayati raj, and sports and youth affairs. Save has been put in charge of the politically significant cooperation department, while Vikhe Patil has got the revenue department along with animal husbandry and dairy.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)