Expect new ministers in Cabinet
Girkar, Shelar in line for Cabinet expansion today. Axe likely to fall on Prakash Mehta, Vidya Thakur, Rajkumar Badole and Vishnu Savra
CM Devendra Fadnavis will expand and reshuffle his Cabinet on Sunday morning by dropping controversial as well as underperforming ministers and induct new faces from both BJP and ally Shiv Sena, a day before the beginning of Monsoon session of state legislature.
From among BJP's cabinet team, housing minister Prakash Mehta (Mumbai), who had courted controversy over a redevelopment project, and social justice minister Rajkumar Badole, were on their way out. Tribal development minister Vishnu Savra has told the party about his inability to continue in view of health issues, but it remains to be seen if he gets a good deputy to assist and is allowed to continue till Assembly's October term-ending.
As expected, the former opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil was cleared for inclusion as a Cabinet minister. He quit Congress recently to switch over to BJP. His son has won a Lok Sabha seat for BJP after breaking away from Congress. Though another strong contender and Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar was hopeful of getting a Cabinet berth, a Dalit leader from Mumbai, Bhai Girkar, was tipped to replace social justice minister Rajkumar Badole.
Among junior ministers, Mumbai's Vidya Thakur, central Vidarbha's Praveen Pote Patil and eastern Vidarbha's Ambarish Atram were told about their exit. Some new faces tipped to be swearing in on Sunday morning — CM's mentee Parinay Fukey (Nagpur-Bhandara), Dr Sanjay Kute (Buldhana), Dr Anil Bonde (Amravati), Bal Bhegde (Pune), Atul Save (Aurangabad) and Ashok Uike (Yavatmal).
A three-term BJP loyalist, Kute may get a Cabinet rank because he was in consideration every time the Cabinet was expanded or reshuffled in the past. Uike, an adivasi leader, would replace Savra as senior minister or assist as a junior. Fukey, Bonde and others are likely to be drafted as junior ministers.
BJP ally Republican Party of India (Athawale) has suggested its general secretary Avinash Mahatekar for a junior ministry. Sena is said to have rejected the offer of Deputy Chief Minister's post, and instead expects to get an additional Cabinet and junior minister's berth. So, it can nominate three members. Thackeray, who met Fadnavis late Friday night, may skip the swearing-in ceremony because of his scheduled tour of Ayodhaya, where he and his newly-elected MPs will seek Lord Rama's blessings.
Sources in Sena confirmed that party's latest entrant Jaidutt Kshirsagar was the chosen one for one Cabinet berth. Kshirsagar quit NCP to join Sena recently. For junior minister's slot, Sena has nominated Tanaji Sawant. Sources said if incumbent MoS (home) Deepak Kesarkar gets promoted to the Cabinet rank, then Kshirsagar will become a junior minister. This should happen if the Sena is given one more additional Cabinet berth.
Sena chief is learned to have dropped the idea of having a DyCM because of internal clashes over the selection. A section wanted veteran minister Subhash Desai in the seat, the other lobbied for party's group leader in Assembly, Eknath Shinde. The alternative thought was that Yuva Sena president Aaditya Thackeray be drafted to end the feud, but the idea of such a designation was scrapped.
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