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Shah, Gadkari put off Mumbai trip to avoid dealing with berth wrangling

Fighting shy of facing Shiv Sena and covetous ministerial aspirants in Mumbai, the senior BJP leaders decide to stay holed up in the Capital until today

Shrinking back from the Shiv Sena impasse and fierce lobbying for cabinet berths from NCP and Congress rebels now in the BJP fold, the saffron party’s chief, Amit Shah, and Union minister Nitin Gadkari hemmed themselves in Delhi limits until today.

Nitin Gadkari Amit Shah
Nitin Gadkari and Amit Shah

They called off their trip to Mumbai yesterday, deciding instead to appear only at the last minute for the swearing in of their party’s first government in the state. With just a day to go for inducting Devendra Fadnavis as Chief Minister, speculations were rife that Sena might join the government.

A positive response had come from party boss Uddhav Thackeray who had, according to BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar, agreed to being part of the government after Fadnavis called him on Wednesday.

But right when things seemed finally to head to a resolution, Sena reacted sharply to a tweet by BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy’s, which said no Sena member was expected to take oath on Friday, when Fadnavis and his team are going to be sworn in at Wankhede Stadium.

“We have taken a serious view of the tweet and subsequent reports filed by news agencies,” said a Sena spokesperson. Later came reports about Thackeray’s decision to skip the function where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top BJP leaders will be present.

As there was no sign of any breakthrough on talks over joining the government, Thackeray thought it inappropriate to attend the induction while his party members stay away. Sensing the potential for drama, Shah and Gadkari asked Fadnavis to come to Delhi instead.

Another reason being cited for their trip cancellation is sizeable demands for portfolios from the 39 newly elected MLAs, who had switched their loyalties to BJP on the eve of elections.

“We were promised a cabinet berth by senior leaders such as Gadkari, who played a crucial role in inducting us into the saffron party,” said an MLA from western Maharashtra. But it seems the BJP may have poached more than it can please.

Sources say that had the two party stalwarts come to the city, most of the known faces from the lot of the 39 who made it to the state assembly on a BJP ticket would have pushed for their causes a cabinet berth with the strongest possible vigour.

It is learnt that leaders such as Gadkari have been putting the MLAs’ cases before the party’s central leadership, but the BJP has decided to induct only a few prominent ones.

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