MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday expanded his Council of Ministers to include the Shiv Sena, which has returned to the saffron fold after earlier severing its ties with the BJP in the run-up to the Assembly polls.
Fadnavis inducted 20 new ministers -- 10 from the Sena and as many from his own party -- into the Cabinet.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was among those present at the swearing-in as Governor Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office to his party’s 10 members -- five Ministers of Cabinet rank and as many Ministers of State. All the Sena Ministers remembered party founder, the late Bal Thackeray before taking the oath in name of the God.
Uddhav, however, ensured ministerial ranks for his trusted aides Subhash Desai and Diwakar Raote. Desai had lost the Assembly election to BJP’s Vidya Thakur from Goregaon here. Now, both of them are part of the Cabinet.
The Sena chief also got Deepak Kesarkar, who joined the party a few days before the election after defecting from the NCP, on board as a reward for playing a catalyst in defeating his bête noire, former CM Narayan Rane.
Fadnavis, meanwhile, has given priority to Vidarbha region, his native place, while selecting the ministers from his party. Among his 10 new colleagues, two ministers of Cabinet rank and three MoS are from the backward region, where the demand for a separate statehood is a hot political issue. Fadnavis also ensured that Baban Lonikar, an MLA from Marathwada, got a ministerial reward for providing him valuable inputs on irrigation scam during the Congress-NCP rule. His speeches on the scam had given Fadnavis the image of a studious leader.
The BJP’s two MoS, Ambarish Atram and Ram Shinde,hail from royal families. Atram, a first-time MLA, is a member of royals from Aheri, a tribal fiefdom. Shinde is a descendent of Ahilyadevi Holkar, Queen of erstwhile Malwa kingdom in Madhya Pradesh.
Fadnavis said there would be another Cabinet expansion in one month’s time.
He has announced that two members from the Sena and one each from the Republican Party of India (RPI), the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) and the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) would be inducted into the Cabinet in the next expansion.
The ceremony was conspicuous by the absence of the Opposition Congress and NCP leaders. Both the parties have staked their claim for the Leader of Opposition post, which fell vacant after the Sena joined the government.
With the Sena on its side, the BJP expects to sail through the Winter session of the state legislature.