Cabinet expansion: Shiv Sena loyalists likely to miss ministerial berth
According to sources, the party leadership plans to induct former NCP leader Jaidutt Kshirsagar, who last month switched his loyalty to the Thackerays
The news of Cabinet expansion brings some hope for Shiv Sena's members in the Assembly because most of the party's incumbent senior ministers are from the Upper house. However, going by sources, party loyalists are likely to miss the bus this time around as well, as the Sena leadership plans to induct former NCP leader Jaidutt Kshirsagar, who last month switched his loyalty to the Thackerays.
The party members directly elected to the Assembly have been complaining that they got a raw deal in sharing power. When Sena joined the BJP government in 2014, it gave four senior leaders from the Upper house priority. They made an exception for Eknath Shinde by giving him one of the five Cabinet slots. But it drafted Assembly members in all the five positions of junior ministers, who are now aspiring for promotion with the expectation that some seniors would be dropped.
Cabinet minister Deepak Sawant quit because he was denied another term in the Upper house. Sources said the vacancy would be filled when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expands his Cabinet, which is likely to happen on June 14. A top Sena leader confirmed that in case of a Cabinet expansion they would go for Kshirsagar, who quit as NCP legislator from Beed to make Sena his new political abode. His induction is aimed at bolstering Sena's prospects in the district where BJP and NCP are the main contenders, with the former enjoying an upper hand. If sworn in, Kshirsagar should get one of the additional departments that Shinde has been in-charge of since Sawant's resignation. Likewise, the BJP too is expected to induct former Opposition leader in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil in the Cabinet.
Speaking to mid-day, some Sena leaders from Vidarbha and Marathwada said that in a bid to woo leaders from other parties, the party not only disappointed Marathi MLAs but also non-Marathi lawmakers, who have been loyal to Sena despite BJP's rising graph and attractive offers. "The party hasn't given non-Marathis representation in the state in the past five years," said a leader from Vidarbha where Sena has just four MLAs, including non-Marathi ones, who have helped the party expand and sustain itself.
"The party will need additional strength to withstand the BJP and Opposition parties and the Marathi and non-Marathi collaboration will help the party win maximum seats when they'll enter into a seat-sharing formula with the BJP," said a Sena leader from Marathwada. The leader further said that Marathwada had a non-Marathi voice in the Rajya Sabha in the form of Rajkumar Dhoot, who will retire next year. But for the sainiks who work on field representation in the Rajya Sabha does not really matter, he said, adding that late Bal Thackeray had made it a point to send at least one non-Marathi representative to Rajya Sabha.
"Sena has made a deliberate effort to woo non-Marathis in Mumbai, but those from the rest of Maharashtra have been taken for granted," said another leader, adding that the non-Marathis from the hinterlands have always stood by the Sena because they loved late Bal Thackeray's aggression.
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