Devendra Fadnavis expands cabinet, inducts ex-Congress leader Vikhe Patil

Devendra Fadnavis

Former Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar were among the eight who were sworn in as ministers in the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra cabinet on Sunday.

Apart from the eight ministers, five were inducted as junior ministers as part of a cabinet expansion which took place a day before the beginning of the state legislature's monsoon session and four months ahead of the Assembly polls.

This was the third expansion of the state cabinet and no new woman leader was inducted. There are two women ministers -- Pankaja Munde and Vidya Thakur -- in the BJP-Sena coalition government in Maharashtra.

Vikhe Patil, the former leader of opposition in the state Assembly, and ex-NCP leader Jaydutt Kshirsagar, who joined the Shiv Sena recently, were sworn in as cabinet ministers on Sunday. Mumbai BJP chief Shelar was also inducted into the cabinet.

Shelar, the former chairman of Mumbai Cricket Association, was earlier seen as a strong contender for the cabinet post, specially after the BJP's tally in the local civic body rose from 33 to 83 under his leadership during the 2017 municipal polls.

For the first time, a leader from the Republic Party of India (Athawale), Avinash Mahatekar, was inducted into the Fadnavis government as a junior minister.

RPI(A) chief and Rajya Sabha member Ramdas Athawale is currently a minister of state in NDA government at the Centre.

Vikhe Patil, Kshirsagar and Mahatekar, who currently are not members of any House of the state legislature, can hold ministerial charge for six months.

According to the rules they have to get elected in the state legislature within these six months. But since the state polls are due in September-October, these ministers can stay on their posts till end of this Assembly's tenure.

Suresh Khade, Sanjay Kute, Anil Bonde and Ashok Uike of the BJP and Tanaji Sawant of the Shiv Sena also took oath as cabinet ministers.

Among them, Sawant is the only cabinet member who is a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) while the others are MLAs.

Besides, BJP's Yogesh Sagar, Sanjay alias Bala Bhegade, Parinay Phuke and Atul Save were inducted as MoS. While Phuke is an MLC, the others are members of the Lower House.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Housing Minister Prakash Mehta and five other ministers quit their posts, an official in the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said.

Besides Mehta, the others who resigned as ministers are Rajkumar Badole, Vishnu Sawra, Dilip Kamble, Praveen Pote and Amrish Atram. The chief minister has accepted their resignations, the official added.

The Devendra Fadnavis government took charge in November 2014, but the Sena did not join the government at that time.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led party joined the government in December that year during the first cabinet expansion. The second expansion of the cabinet was held in July, 2016.

A vacancy was created in 2018 when then state agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar died. The portfolio was subsequently being handled by Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil.

Earlier this year, then health minister Deepak Sawant also resigned and the department was being looked after by Eknath Shinde, who is also the PWD minister.

Parliamentary Affairs and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Girish Bapat resigned after being elected to the Lok Sabha from Pune. His portfolios were till now being shared by Education Minister Vinod Tawde and Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal.

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