With Nandurbar MP Manikrao Gavit’s comeback in the Union cabinet, the state’s representation has risen from seven to eight. However, Maharashtra still remains neglected despite being a strong Congress bastion. Barring ministers of state Rajeev Shukla and Tariq Anwar (from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar respectively), who were elected from the state’s quota to Rajya Sabha, the tally stands at a mere six members in the cabinet.
Maharashtra has 17 Lok Sabha members and six Rajya Sabha members. Senior party leaders from the state feel that Maharashtra has been long ignored by the Congress leadership. Gavit has been the fifth Congressman from Maharashtra to get the cabinet berth as the minister of state, Sushilkumar Shinde being the only minister with a cabinet rank.
In the past, the state had a larger representation with party bigwigs such as Mukul Wasnik, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Gurudas Kamat, Shivraj Patil and Murli Deora (during UPA-I). Today the total strength is eight members with three NCP ministers - Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel and Tariq Anwar; five Congress members including Shinde as home minister; and ministers of state Milind Deora, Pratik Patil, Rajeev Shukla and now Manikrao Gavit.
Though Gavit was elected for a record ninth consecutive term, he was offered an MoS rank. During UPA-I, he was the minister of state for home but was later asked to resign during a cabinet reshuffle. This time he has been allotted the ministry of social justice.
While the UPA has considered increasing the representation of other states such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra is yet to make it the priority list. On the other hand, the party leadership has with the induction of a few more faces in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and AICC - displayed that it wants senior people from the party work to run the UPA government, said a senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity.
Effecting some changes at the party level, Congress inducted Gurudas Kamat as the general secretary, and has made Murli Deora, Vilas Muttemwar and state council chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh as members of the CWC.