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Dharmendra Jore: In full control, but Fadnavis has some loose ends to tie

The CM’s decision to allocate portfolios in secrecy has ruffled feathers in the Cabinet

Dissent has found a way to vent and how. Ask Pankaja Gopinath Munde, who ceases to be the minister of water conservation department that implements CM Devendra Fadnavis’s flagship programme Jalayukta Shivar.

When Munde came to know about the Cabinet reshuffle, she tweeted that she was reaching Singapore on Sunday for the World Water Leader Summit starting from Monday, but she will not attend it as she was not minister in charge (of the department that she was invited to represent at WWL).

Fadnavis must have felt outwitted the moment he saw Munde’s message, which overtly gave an impression that she had not been taken into confidence before making the changes. The Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) has also been taken from her and given to a newcomer. A supporter tweeted, “Tai, I’m aghast at this treatment meted out to the daughter of the tallest leader of BJP the state has ever produced. Insulting.” Another threw her a loaded question as to why she was travelling to Singapore when she wasn’t in-charge.

While all this unfolded in the cyber world, the CM was cutting across airspace on his flight to Russia. He must be relieved that he does not have to see his resentful ministers for the next five days, after executing allocation of portfolios in utmost secrecy. On Saturday, as he left for Mumbai Airport, he sent the ministers’ list to the governor’s house for approval. The CMO made the official announcement only after the CM became inaccessible.

Breaking the journey two hours after Munde’s tweet, Fadnavis replied, telling her that she must attend the meet as a senior minister (she continues to head rural development, woman & child welfare departments) representing the Maharashtra government.

The effect showed. Munde tweeted again after a long gap, this time wishing her successors Ram Shinde (water conservation) and Jaykumar Rawal (EGS) good luck. And mind you, she hadn’t changed, till Sunday evening, her twitter cover photo – a collage of her with supporters at a Jalyukta Shivar site and her father late Gopinath’s smiling mugshot.

Munde’s is not an isolated case in the Cabinet. Not many in the Cabinet would say things as openly as Munde because the CM has taken a hardline Narendra Modi-like approach, which he is unlikely to change very soon. He ruffled veterans who sat comfortably. Vinod Tawde lost medical education and a Mumbai heavyweight, Prakash Mehta, was left with just one department.

Munde aired her dissent in public because she believes that the mass following that her late father cultivated would protect her politically. She once said publicly that her followers saw a CM in her. She tried taking credit for water conservation projects that Fadnavis has been monitoring. All this happened despite the fact that the CM protected her in the Chikki scam. Let’s see how relations between the two changed after the rejig.

Fadnavis flummoxed ministers who claimed proximity to him. Ram Shinde told journalists even before taking oath that he would get agriculture. Nilangekar and Rawal expected lucrative portfolios. Ravindra Chavan’s immaturity showed when hoardings that were put in advance declared him as a minister of state for home.

While it’s Fadnavis now who is in full control, Kolhapur’s Chandrakant Patil has advanced his career graph. A low profile Maratha from Kolhapur whose unique selling point is his proximity to the BJP national president Amit Shah is now number two in the cabinet. A day after he was made leader of the Legislative Council, he also bagged the revenue department that Eknath Khadse led before being asked to quit after corruption charges.

Patil will be a man to be watched keenly as long as Shah reigns supreme in the BJP. And it will be interesting to see whether he retains his position if Khadse, the previous number two in the government, is allowed a comeback in the Cabinet, especially after a judicial inquiry against him gets over.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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