There were many strong contenders for cabinet berths from BJP, Shiv Sena as well as independents who were waiting since one year. Even chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis had hinted that the cabinet expansion would take place before the forthcoming monsoon session of the state legislature from July 17. However, with Sunday’s expansion, which they claim was a ‘big surprise’, their hopes have faded.
According to the legislators, with 16 berths still up for grabs after nine going to the NCP, they may still have an outside chance to make it in the last year of their tenure before next year’s assembly polls.
They are hoping that the remaining berths would be equally distributed among the three parties and independents.
Some contenders hailed the NCP’s move to join the government saying it would benefit all the three parties in next year’s elections.
“I believe the next cabinet expansion will take place in the next ten days before the the monsoon session. It is the prerogative of the CM and deputy CM. Overall, NCP’s entry would significantly boost the prospects of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Lok Sabha elections next year. We will cross the tally of 45/48 seats from the state. On the other hand, the MVA is broken, and its candidates would be on a weak wicket,” Ramtek MLA Ashish Jaiswal told TOI.
Independent MLA Narendra Bhondekar said highly experienced leaders like Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal and Dilip Walse Patil joining the government would improve governance and ultimately, people would gain.
A Sena MLA said that in the next cabinet expansion, NCP would not get any berths. “The 16 posts would be given in a way by which the Shinde camp would get six, BJP eight and one each for two independents. Our only problem is that we’ll have to sit with rival NCP legislators who were often criticized by us for corruption,” he said.
From the BJP, leaders like city chief Pravin Datke, two-time MLA Krishna Khopde, senior legislators Sanjay Kute, Randhir Savarkar and Sameer Meghe are the front runners. From the Shinde camp, MLAs Ashish Jaiswal, Sanjay Gaikwad, and Sanjay Raimulkar are in contention. Among independents, former minister Bacchu Kadu, Ravi Rana, Narendra Bhondekar and Kishor Jorgewar are eyeing berths.