Cabinet expansion expected, party insiders say city leader likely to be made minister as Cong wants to counter rising NCP influence
The expected cabinet expansion after Diwali has given rise to speculation that city Congress leader Vinayak Nimhan will be made a minister, especially since the party has of late been feeling the need to counter the rising influence of the NCP here.
Happy Diwali: Vinayak Nimhan may become only the second MLA from
the city to be made cabinet minister in the history of the state. The only
MLA to have been in the cabinet so far is Shashikant Sutar. Party
insiders say though Nimhan's name had been considered for a cabinet post
in the past, things did not work out in his favour because of the
influence of the Suresh Kalmadi camp in the Congress
Party sources yesterday said Nimhan had a strong chance of being made a minister, as there was a growing demand for the inclusion of a city representative in the cabinet. The issue of the city's representation in the cabinet has been under discussion for the past few years, and the demand has grown only shriller since MLA Ramesh Bagwe was dropped as minister of state for home after Prithviraj Chavan took over as chief minister from Ashok Chavan.
"There hasn't been a single reshuffle or expansion after Prithviraj Chavan took charge as CM of the state. The city has always got an unfair deal when it comes to the issue of a cabinet berth. Whether it is Chandrakant Chhajed, Prakash Dhere or Ramesh Bagwe, city leaders always have always had to remain satisfied with the being minister of state," said a source in the Congress.
The lack of strong leadership in the city Congress and the increasing influence of the NCP in state as well as city politics has made the party think of making a party leader represent the city in the state cabinet to make its presence felt, said the source. Since the state came in to being fifty years ago, there have been only two cabinet ministers from the city, Jayantrao Tilak and Shashikant Sutar.
As Tilak was a member of Legislative Council, Sutar was the only MLA from the city to have ever been a cabinet minister. The current speculation in Congress circles about Nimhan also highlights the gradual decline in the influence wielded by city MP Suresh Kalmadi's camp in the party.
"Earlier also Nimhan's name for the cabinet rank had been discussed, but it didn't work out because of the influence of supporters of Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi," said the source. "This time, though, the state is sure to get a minister of cabinet rank from Pune after many years of efforts." State Congress president Manikrao Thakre declined to comment on the issue, saying that it was the CM's prerogative to take a call on the expansion of the cabinet.