The Sena sought to play down the slight. “The Union cabinet expansion was confined only to the BJP . None of the NDA allies were inducted in the PM’s team,” said Sanjay Raut, Sena MP and executive editor of Saamna.
There are indications Sena is demanding one cabinet rank portfolio and two ministers of state in Maharashtra as compensation. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is currently drawing up plans to expand his team in a day or two. He told ToI he will expand the cabinet by July 10 before embarking on a four-day tour of Russia.”We expect the reshuffle on July 7 or 9. A few non-performing cabinet members and those facing charges of corruption and irregularities may be dropped. It has been proposed to induct nine to 10 new members in the cabinet. The BJP leadership has given a free hand to Fadnavis,” a senior party leader said.
Speculation was rife on Monday that Matoshree may ask senior Sena leader Anant Gite to resign from the Union cabinet as a mark of protest against the BJP’s decision to leave Sena out of the reshuffle in Delhi.The party had been hopeful of Rajya Sabha member Anil Desai’s induction in the cabinet. Despite the disappointment, Gite attended the swearing-in. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is believed to have met Modi in New Delhi on Monday to persuade him to consider the Sena demand for a cabinet rank post at the Centre. However, the CM’s plea, which was obviously to buy peace with the Sena in order to ensure the smooth functioning of his allianceled government in Maharashtra, fell on deaf ears. “Our central leadership is miffed with the Sena for articles in Saamna against the Modi government. By not inducting a single Sena MP in the cabinet, the PM has sent a strong signal to Sena to mend its ways and observe alliance ‘dharma’,” said a senior BJP functionary .
Not that Matoshree didn’t know that the BJP rebuff was likely. Speaking to mediapersons on Monday , party president Uddhav Thackeray had said the Sena wasn’t going to be at the BJP’s mercy for a few more berths in Team Modi. “We will not go on our bended knees (for the Union cabinet posts),” he said.
But if the Sena’s demand for more portfolios in the state is ignored, it will test the CM’s political skills ahead of the monsoon session of the state legislature, scheduled to begin on July 18. The Opposition Congress-NCP will, of course, prize every opportunity to play on the BJP-Sena rift on the floor of the two houses of the state legislature, said Vidhan Bhavan mandarins.
Fadnavis may also induct smaller allies–including Mahadeo Jankar of Rashtriya Samaj Party, Vinayak Mete of Shiv Sangram and Sadabhau Khot of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana–to strengthen his coalition. “Our information is he did discuss cabinet reshuffle with BJP president Amit Shah,” said a source.
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