Maharashtra Cabinet expansion: Shiv Sena, allies hold marathon talks

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray with NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Photo: PTI

Amid murmurs of resentment over distribution of ministries between alliance partners Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP in Maharashtra, leaders of the three parties held marathon meetings on Wednesday to finalise the allocation of portfolios.

The cabinet was expanded on Monday with induction of 36 ministers which took its strength to 43, including chief minister.

The leaders held several rounds of talks with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray during the day, sources said.

"Allocation of ministries has been almost finalized. All issues have been resolved. The allocation is expected to be announcedby tomorrow," a source said.

District guardian ministers and sitting arrangement of ministers at cabinet meetings were finalised on Wednesday, they said.

Ashok Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat, Vijay Wadettiwar and Nitin Raut from Congress, Jayant Patil and AjitPawar from the NCP and Eknath Shindefrom the Shiv Sena met Thackeray to discuss allocation of ministries.

According to Congress sources, the party is upset that it was not given any of the ministries which have a bearing on rural areas, such as agriculture and cooperation.

"We can swap portfolios with other two parties. We are not demanding increase in the number of ministries," sources added.

All three parties are facing disgruntlement of leaders who were not inducted in the cabinet.

Among such MLAs are Congress' Sangram Thopte, whose supporters vandalised Pune Congress office on Tuesday, and NCP's Prakash Solanke. Both the parties claimed that they have been mollified.

Shiv Sena's Tanaji Sawant is also unhappy over being ignored in the cabinet expansion, sources said.

Bhaskar Jadhav, who had joined the Sena on the eve of Assembly polls, claimed that party chief Uddhav Thackeray had made certain commitments to him, so he was confident that he would be made minister and the exclusion left him shocked.

About a dozen Sena legislators are said to be upset over not getting place in the cabinet.

On the other hand, the 12 Congress ministers visited Delhi after the swearing-in on Monday.

Congress leaders, sources said, feel that the party has not got agriculture, co-operation, housing and rural development ministries which are concerned with rural parts of the state.

Rural development, co-operation and housing are with the NCP and agriculture with the Shiv Sena, and the Congress is keen on getting at least two of these four departments.

The Congress has been allocated revenue, PWD and energy, among other ministries.

The NCP has 12 cabinet ministers and four Ministers of State, the Shiv Sena has 10 cabinet ministers and four MoS while Congress has 10 cabinet ministers and two MoS.

The NCP has bagged important portfolios of Home and Finance.

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