Building the future 'Team-Fadnavis'
Though very late, Sunday's Cabinet expansion saw some poor performers exit, but the fortunate 'failures' continue to have a free run
Sunday's Cabinet expansion by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wasn't an exercise without reason and purpose. They felt the need of dropping some seniors and juniors to accommodate new faces ahead of the legislative session and Assembly elections in October.
Fadnavis hasn't blamed the allegations of irregularities for housing minister Prakash Mehta's exit. Instead, he had dared the Opposition to produce evidences to nail the current and former ministers, who faced corruption charges. He said the revamp wasn't cosmetic but thoughtful in nature with an eye on the future. "We wanted new faces. Some regional aspects were also considered," said Fadnavis.
As part of the revamp, that came very late, some highly educated people have been inducted. This shows a thick impression of Fadnavis, albeit with some compromises evident, for driving the CM's applecart steadily based on a balanced representation for the OBCs, SC/ST, nomadic tribes, Marathas, lingual minorities and ethnic groups. Vidarbha, where caste politics played rough threatening BJP's prospects in the Lok Sabha polls, has been given more senior berths in anticipation of retaining the stronghold. Ally Shiv Sena was allotted two senior berths (Jaidutt Kshirsagar and Tanaji Sawant), and Republican Party of India (A) was given a junior's slot for its general secretary Avinash Mahatekar.
Getting Mehta's wicket
Many believe Mehta's ouster wasn't as easy as getting Eknath Khadse clean-bowled, because of the Mumbai leader's defiance and connections with party seniors in New Delhi. Mehta belongs to a dominant Gujarati community that holds a significant sway over BJP affairs. On Sunday, Khadse cribbed over not being reinstated and slammed the induction of defectors like Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.
It was also said that some BJP leaders didn't want Vikhe Patil inducted because he had called the Fadnavis Cabinet 'Thugs of Hindustan' and levelled serious corruption charges. However, the CM said the allegations were withdrawn. Vikhe Patil became the second Opposition leader after Narayan Rane to move swiftly over to the treasury benches in the same term.
Fadnavis has Mehta's Gujarati replacement from Mumbai in a long-term corporator-turned-MLA Yogesh Sagar. But the CM could not get rid of Vidya Thakur, who hasn't impressed as a junior minister, obviously in anticipation of the wrath that the north-Indian community would have inflicted over her exit. Also, Thakur's family is a staunch RSS loyalist. Ashish Shelar has been rewarded for his excellent performance in two successive terms as Mumbai BJP president.
Kamble has been a minnow despite being part of the previous BJP-Sena government. But his SC credential has proved as an obstacle in sacking him. The way out was sacking Kamble's under-performing senior Rajkumar Badole. There shouldn't be any complaint as the two are out in one stroke. The Dalit incumbents in the new team should take over the department till the end of term. Badole has been replaced with Miraj MLA Dr Suresh Khade. This representation should make the poorly represented southern part of western Maharashtra happy. A junior minister from Mumbai, Mahatekar (RPI) is the other Dalit. Vishnu Savra, a low-profile BJP loyalist, cited health reasons for not continuing the job of a 'failed' tribal development minister. Fadnavis has inducted a first-time adivasi MLA from Yavatmal, Ashok Uike in Savra's place. Interestingly, BJP's multi-term MLA from Yavatmal, Madan Yerawar, who expected a promotion, continues to be a junior minister. Uike's seniority may cause an emergence of a parallel power centre in Yavatmal.
Mentee, loyalists in
Badole's exit has benefitted CM's mentee from Nagpur, Parinay Fukey, who is an MLC from Bhandara-Gondia, the segment that had defeated a BJP candidate in a Lok Sabha by-poll in 2018. But a year after the constituency returned BJP's nominee to the Parliament. Fukey, a doctorate holder, should now be the party's Bhandara-Gondia satrap as Nagpur BJP is top-heavy.
Dr Sanjay Kute, an active member of an informal group of young legislators, which Fadnavis guided when he was in the Opposition, has landed a Cabinet minister's berth after a prolonged but fruitful wait. A doctor of medicine and three-time MLA, he can have a free run in Buldhana district under the CM's protection.
Another doctor, Anil Bonde [Morshi in Amravati], who opened debates in the lower house along with Kute, because that was the only way available to establish their significance in the BJP, has also been made a Cabinet minister. For Bode, a junior minister from Amravati, Praveen Pote Patil, was dropped because of political failure in the Lok Sabha. Bonde's elevation should change equations in the Amravati BJP. He had quit Sena after being denied a poll ticket. He won the first term as an independent and got the second as Fadnavis's pick.
The CM handpicked Aurangabad's Atul Save, son of former Sena MP late Moreshwar Save, to strengthen its base in Marathwada's capital, where Sena lost its Lok Sabha seat to AIMIM recently. BJP has rewarded a three-time MLA from Maval, Bala (Sanjay) Bhegade, for playing an important role in beating Ajit Pawar's son Parth in the Lok Sabha.
It was better late than never in case of junior minister in tribal development, Raje Ambarish Atram, who was sent packing. Atram, 33, a Birmingham Business School graduate and descendent of an erstwhile tribal king from Gadchiroli, has been a big letdown since 2014. Likewise, several other BJP ministers have been poor performers. Some were shown the exit doors on Sunday. The ones who survived should count on their luck, as confrontation with the voters is not very far.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to email@example.com
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