Maharashtra cabinet expansion: Maratha face gets more prominent
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
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].”
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.
Sambhaji Nilangekar Patil | 39
>> This Maratha is the grandson of Congress leader and ex-CM Shivajirao Nilangekar Patil.
>> Fadnavis’s close confidant, expected to get a plum department as a cabinet rank minister.
Trump card: Is seen as the party’s tool in wiping out the Congress from Latur district, which once which also gave Maharashtra the second longest serving CM in Vilasrao Deshmukh
Pandurang Phundkar | 65
>> BJP’s face in western Vidarbha, RRS veteran, ex-state BJP president and leader of the opposition in the legislative council
>> Has managed to get the post despite being a member of the upper house.
Madan Yerawar (MoS) | 53
>> Staunch RSS and BJP worker, he has risen through the ranks through hard work.
>> Other than a good department to assist his senior minister, Yerawar will replace the Sena’s Sanjay Rathod as Yavatmal district’s guardian minister.
Trump card: From farmers suicide-hit Yavatmal. Belongs to a minority yet influential traders’ community of Arya Vaishya, of which another representative, Sudhir Mungantiwar is in the Fadnavis cabinet.
Arjun Khotkar (MoS) | 54
>> One of the senior-most Sena MLAs and left in the lurch since 2014. Shows his frustration in the assembly by hitting out at Sena ministers during debates.
>> When the Sena got two positions in the cabinet expansion, it had to induct Khotkar because most of the party’s existing ministers are from Mumbai region. Khotkar comes from Jalana, where state BJP chief Raosaheb Danve is an MP.
Subhash Deshmukh | 60
>> Veteran Maratha leader and ex-MP from Solapur. Fought Sharad Pawar from Madha, has been a force to reckon with in fights against ex-CM Sushilkumar Shinde.
>> A sugar baron who owns a network of profit-making private sugarcane mills, runs many educational institutes, charities and social projects such as mass marriage ceremonies.
Trump card: Is expected to weaken the vote base of non-BJP parties.
Ram Shinde | 47
>> Descendent of Dhangar royal family of Mankoji Shinde, father of Ahalyabai Holkar of erstwhile Malwa Union.
>> Inducted as MoS in Dec 2014 and given key portfolios — home department (rural) and public health.
Trump card: May emerge as strong leader of his Dangar community, which wants quota in jobs and education. Promotion is seen as an effort to appease the community.
Mahadev Jankar | 48
>> Has been active in ensuring the welfare of his Dhangar community. Founded Rashtriya Samaj Paksh in 2003 and as its president, has been leading the agitation in the community’s demand for quota.
>> Joined hands with the BJP before the 2014 LS polls and fought against Supriya Sule in her father Sharad Pawar’s fiefdom Baramati. Lost that election, but not without reducing Sule’s winning margin. Was given a cabinet rank portfolio as promised.
Sadashiv Khot | 51
>> Farmers’ leader from western Maharashtra, where his party Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana has rattled both Congress and NCP.
>> Khot came along with his force to the BJP before the 2014 polls.
Trump card: Acted as a guiding force for the state during agrarian crises. Has not spared even the BJP when he felt farmers were being wronged.
Jaykumar Rawal | 41
>> Scion of industrial family that also runs educational institutes in tribal Dhule district. Grandfather and uncle were legislators. Was the first Asian to win students’ union elections in Cardiff University, where he did his MBA.
>> Considers Fadnavis political guru
Trump card: Will work efficiently in tribal areas of Dhule and Nandurbar where the Congress once ruled the roost.
Ravindra Chavan (MoS) | 46
>> Two-time MLA from Dombivli, which is the BJP’s stronghold since it has a good network of the RSS in place. Won an unexpected number of seats in Kalyan-Dombivli polls last year.
Trump card: BJP someone in Thane to counter the Sena’s influence. Chavan wields considerable influence among lower middle class and has also managed to win over the upper crest that supports BJP.
Gulabrao Patil (MoS) | 50
>> Firebrand sainik who once made his living by acting in folk theatre and running a paan shop in Paladhi village in Jalgaon district.
>> Levelled graft charges against Eknath Khadse, led agitations and then celebrated the minister’s ouster.
Trump card: An orator par excellence, he is in demand during party campaigns. His aggression will be used widely to weaken the BJP in Jalgaon, where Khadse still calls the shots.