State cabinet headed for a makeover
Both Congress, NCP mulling a reshuffle; major changes in bureaucracy expected too
It’s not just the central cabinet that is likely to see major churning in the days to come. After Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi amid speculations of a major reshuffle in the party and at the state cabinet level, NCP chief Sharad Pawar will have a meeting of prominent leaders from the state in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The congregation coincides with the party’s extended executive meeting, where senior leaders like state unit chief Madhukar Pichad, deputy CM Ajit Pawar, PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal, home minister RR Patil and rural development minister Jayant Patil will be present. After the party executive meeting, these senior leaders will closet with Pawar to discuss state affairs, including the probable replacement to Pichad and changes in the state cabinet. To facilitate the event, the weekly meeting of the state cabinet, scheduled for Wednesday evening, has now been postponed, sources from the party said.
According to them, the NCP leadership was in a mood to replace four to five ministers with new faces. Yardstick for this will be the district-wise performance during the recently held elections to civic and local bodies. Also, the party is looking for a new state unit chief to pave way for incumbent Madhukar Pichad’s entry to the state cabinet or as Speaker of the state assembly.
The Congress leadership is believed to have discussed the issue of reshuffle in the state cabinet as well as at the party level. While filling up two vacancies in the cabinet, the party is working on nominating a few aspirants to state-controlled corporations and public sector units as a part of a balancing act. Party state unit chief Manikrao Thakre is also willing to vacate his chair to join the state cabinet. The issue of selecting the Mumbai Congress chief is pending as well.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Front government has sought an extension for chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad from the centre. Gaikwad is due to retire next month and according to sources, the state has written to the central government to allow him to continue with his services for at least three months, citing the ongoing drought situation in at least 15 districts of the state. Also, major changes at secretary level are expected soon to fill up other vacancies.