5 Names To Watch Out For Ahead of Shinde-Fadnavis’s Balancing Act

Two weeks after high political drama unfolded in Maharashtra leading to Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde becoming the Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis his deputy, the next challenge will be cabinet allocation.

The duo successfully elected a speaker of their choice and sailed through the trust vote with 164 votes against the Opposition’s 99.

According to The Free Press Journal, the BJP and Shinde camp have reached a consensus on the cabinet expansion, wherein the BJP will get 28 ministerial berths, while 15 will go to the Shinde camp.

Of the 28 BJP ministers, 20 are expected to be cabinet ministers, including deputy chief minister, and 8 ministers of state. On the other hand, of the 15 ministerial berths of Shinde camp, there will be 11 cabinet ministers, including the CM, and four ministers of state.

Reports suggested the date set for announcing the portfolios was July 11, the day the Supreme Court heard a plea filed by Uddhav Thackeray challenging the appointment of a new speaker of the state Assembly. However, the announcement was later deferred to until after the Presidential polls.

While the BJP sprang a surprise by making Shinde the CM, the saffron party is now likely to push for plum portfolios such as home, finance, water resources, etc. At the same time, the coalition will have to juggle between accommodating independents and smaller party MLAs from either party’s quota, besides keeping their own flock happy. Along with this, the distribution will also hinge heavily on the dynamics for the upcoming civic body polls in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, etc.

The Maharashtra cabinet can have a maximum of 42 ministers — 15% of the total strength of 288 MLAs in the Assembly.

Here are the five names to watch out for in the Maharashtra cabinet allocation:

Hitendra Thakur: Bahujan Vikas Aghadi

An MLA and strongman from the Vasai constituency in Palghar district, Thakur has three MLAs, including himself, from Vasai, Nalasopara and Boisar. An ex-Congressman, he is known to be close to Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar. The BVA had, in 2019, pledged support to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi after the 2019 Assembly results.

Although he has a strained relation with CM Shinde, as the Shiv Sena fielded candidates against the BVA in 2019 in the Vasai-Virat belt, the BJP leadership seems to have all but confirmed BVA’s entry into the cabinet

The BVA’s importance was seen during the recent Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council polls, where a close contest practically meant each vote mattered. NCP’s Eknath Khadse and BJP’s Pravin Darekar had held separate closed-door meetings with him for support.

Besides, with the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) polls around the corner, where the BVA won in 109 of the 115 wards last time, a cabinet berth for Hitendra Thakur or his son Kshitij will help them make sure they win the civic polls with ease.

Ravi Rana

A three-time independent MLA from Badnera seat in Amravati district, Rana shot to national fame recently after he and his wife Navneet Rana threatened to read the Hanuman Chalisa outside then CM Uddhav Thackeray’s private residence, Matoshree. The couple was subsequently arrested and came out on bail after a week or so. Ravi Rana has been a vocal critic of the Shiv Sena and Thackeray, particularly in the last two-and-a-half years, accusing him of going soft on Balasaheb’s Hindutva, among others.

The Rana couple has been known for their ‘political fluidity’, supporting parties across the spectrum in the state. Their rivalry with the Sena began in 2014, where Navneet unsuccessfully fought on an NCP ticket against Sena veteran Anandrao Adsul. She, however, beat him in 2019 as an independent with NCP’s support. Things didn’t end there as Adsul later claimed Navneet fudged her caste certificate in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to contest from a reserved seat.

Ravi Rana, meanwhile, first won on an NCP ticket in 2009 as an MLA and switched sides regularly. After the 2019 Assembly elections, he gave support to the BJP, but went back to being neutral after the MVA changed its political equations. He then voted in favour of the BJP in the recent Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council polls. With the BJP back in power, he will be looking to find himself on the ministers’ list.

Bachchu Kadu: Prahar Janshakti Party

Former Minister of State for Water Resources and Guardian Minister of Akola district in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Kadu was one of the first to offer support to the MVA amid the 2019 political turmoil in the state.

With two MLAs, Kadu’s PJP is known to espouse the cause of farmers. A four-time MLA, Kadu is a familiar face in Maharashtra politics and being an MoS previously, he is among the frontrunners for a cabinet berth for independents.

Chandrakant Patil: BJP

State BJP chief and a former PWD minister in the 2014 Fadnavis regime, Chandrakant Patil is known to be a close aide of Fadnavis. Being an OBC face, originally from Kolhapur and an MLA from Pune, the BJP will have an eye on getting the caste dynamics right in the cabinet and Patil’s eagerness on a cabinet berth is likely to help the cause.

However, if Patil indeed gets a cabinet berth, he will have to make way for a new Maharashtra BJP chief, in line with the ‘one man, one post’ policy. In 2016, Patil had resigned as a cabinet minister and was appointed as the state unit chief in 2019 ahead of the assembly polls.

Sanjay Kute: BJP

An MLA from Jalgaon, Kute is known to be close to Fadnavis, along with other leaders like Pravin Darekar, Prasad Lad, Sudhir Mungantiwar, etc. Kute played a pivotal role in the CM’s rebellion, staying at the Surat hotel with Shinde and his MLAs first, charting out strategies and the way ahead. Subsequently, he accompanied the rebel MLAs to Guwahati. He is likely to be one of the key ministers from the BJP’s quota.

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