The Maratha strength is showing its upper hand yet again in the state council of ministers. With yesterday’s expansion of the Devendra Fadnavis team, the number of representatives belonging to the politically influential community has risen further.

Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar shares a light moment with other leaders at the swearing-in ceremony of the new council of ministers at Vidhan Bhavan yesterday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar shares a light moment with other leaders at the swearing-in ceremony of the new council of ministers at Vidhan Bhavan yesterday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The BJP has inducted four Marathas from different regions — Sambhaji Nilangekar Patil from Marathwada, Subhash Deshmukh from western Maharashtra, Pandurang Phundkar from western Vidarbha and Ravindra Chavan from Dombivli in Thane district.

With the existing ministers and those inducted yesterday, Marathas account for 38% of the 39-member council. But, the erstwhile Congress-NCP government had a higher share.

Till yesterday, the BJP had Chandrakant Patil (Kolhapur, southern Maharashtra), Vinod Tawde (Mumbai), Babanrao Lonikar (Marathwada), Dr Ranjit Patil and Pravin Pote Patil (Vidarbha) — all Marathas — in its team.

The Shiv Sena, too, had Marathas — Deepak Sawant, Subhash Desai, Ramdas Kadam, Eknath Shinde, Vijay Shivtare and Dadaji Bhuse — in its first lot. It inducted two ministers, Arjun Khotkar and Gulabrao Patil, yesterday. While Khotkar is a Maratha, Patil belongs to the minority Gurjar community from north Maharashtra. Another Maratha is Sadashiv Khot from ally Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana.

Mollifying the community
Barring few exceptions, Maharashtra had a Maratha as its CM till 1995. The Sena turned the tide then when it propped a Brahmin, Manohar Joshi, on the saddle, while the BJP made Fadnavis, also a Brahmin, the CM in 2014.

Maratha leaders, especially from the Congress and the NCP, are upset with this trend. Political experts feel that the BJP is making an effort to appease the Maratha community, which is also demanding reservation in jobs and education.

Uddhav denies rift
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was absent from the swearing-in ceremony, but he played it down. He said the Sena got whatever was its due and as per the agreement between the Sena and BJP. “We are satisfied with what we got or else we would have responded in our own style [to the BJP].”

 

Portfolios today
The CM said he will allot portfolios by Saturday afternoon. “Till then, you are free to speculate freely,” he told the media. Sources said BJP seniors could not arrive at a decision because some ministers continued to give their preferences and reject the offers made.