It has been nearly a month since Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis have taken over as the chief minister and the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, overthrowing the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government. However, a cabinet expansion is yet to happen.
In an interview with his party’s mouthpiece Samana, Uddhav Thackeray, in an apparent jibe at the delay, said that this government is like “hum do, ek qamre me band ho…” Both Shinde and Fadnavis have been saying that the Cabinet will soon be overhauled.
HERE ARE THE REASONS BEHIND THE DELAY:
1. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
The first and the most important reason behind the delay is the Presidential election. Even though the numbers were clearly in its favor, the NDA was assured a smooth passage of the elections. Not wanting to take any risks with the presidential poll, the BJP wanted to keep its flock together, including its new allies. Despite the Shiv Sena pledging its unconditional support to Draupadi Murmu, antagonising any member of the rebel camp in the expansion could have disturbed the balance. Now that the elections are over and the results out, the way for the expansion is clear.
2. COURT CASES
At least six petitions are being heard by the Shiv Sena on the political turmoil in the state. The Shiv Sena has petitioned the top court, seeking the disqualification of 16 MLAs. Former Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal has also approached the court, while Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai has challenged the formation of the government. The cases will be heard on August 1. The CJI has also hinted at the formation of a larger bench to hear the matter. With a flurry of court cases being heard, the entire think tank of the Shinde-Fadnavis government is busy with the legal battle. The Shinde camp also believes that any further action in expanding the cabinet would invite more petitions from the Sena.
3. AVOIDING 2019-LIKE FAUX PAS
In 2019, after a month-long political drama, Fadnavis took oath as the chief minister with the Nationalist Congress Party’s Ajit Pawar as his deputy. After the matter was heard by the Supreme Court, Fadnavis had to step down within 78 hours of taking the oath. This came as a big embarrassment for the BJP’s central leadership, which had already congratulated the new government on Twitter. This time, they don’t want a repeat and hence, are treading cautiously.
4. TOO MANY MINISTERIAL ASPIRANTS FROM REBEL CAMP
It’s no secret that most of the rebels who joined Team Shinde want to become Ministers. Senior ministers in Uddhav Thackeray’s Cabinet have also rallied behind Shinde and want either the same portfolio or even a bigger one. Upsetting anyone from the rebel camp is not something Shinde and Fadnavis can afford at this crucial juncture. It was evident when Fadnavis addressed party office bearers during the Panvel State Executive Meeting on Saturday. He requested party members to understand the situation since this is a coalition government. BJP’s state chief Chandrakant Patil too created a buzz by saying that BJP had to give the chief ministerial post to Eknath Shinde “with a heavy heart”.
5. BJP’S INTERNAL CALCULATIONS
Both Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis have visited Delhi several times since their swearing in. The BJP’s central leadership will make the final call on the list of ministers. Fadnavis, who initially chose to stay out of the government, was “asked” by party president JP Nadda to take oath as the deputy chief minister. With Fadnavis joining the Cabinet, equilibrium must be maintained, not just with the Shinde faction but also within the BJP. Regional and caste combinations are always given priority in Cabinet formations. But the upcoming municipal corporation polls are forcing the party to consider several things.
6. MORE SURPRISES IN STORE?
Last but not the least, all throughout the political drama, the BJP’s central leadership has taken everyone by surprise with their decisions. Those closely aware of the developments believe that the series of surprises may not be over just yet. The party may pull out more rabbits from its hat while expanding the Cabinet.
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