Mumbai: Is a major reshuffle in the Maha Vikas Aghadi in the offing? The buzz has been building up after the separate meetings of Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and Health Minister Rajesh Tope with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. Adding to this, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat and state party chief Nana Patole met their Congress bosses in Delhi, which is also being viewed as a prelude to the possible reshuffle.
If the NCP and Congress are in agreement, there is every possibility that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray may also carry out a rejig of Sena ministries.
The three ruling partners want to show the door to the non-performers in a bid to bolster the strength of the Uddhav Thackeray-led council of ministers to fend off the BJP, which has stepped up its attacks against the state government.
While the NCP and Congress ministers have not completely ruled out the possibility of a reshuffle, they have left it to their respective bosses. In the case of Shiv Sena, too, ministers said Thackeray would decide the timing.
Even though Pawar has strongly defended the home ministry’s role in the Antilia bomb scare case, NCP insiders feel Deshmukh fell short when it came to countering the BJP’s vitriolic attacks in Antilia bomb scare case and the Mansukh Hiran death case. Pawar and the NCP have ruled out Deshmukh’s resignation but NCP insiders admit that he may be moved out of home.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope, the MVA government’s face in the fight against the coronavirus, is the frontrunner for the home minister’s post, as NCP veterans Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil and Dilip Walse-Patil are not keen on taking up the job. Deshmukh is likely to be given the food and drug administration department while the incumbent, Dr Rajendra Shingane, is expected to be the new health minister.
Incidentally, Tope had flown with Pawar to Delhi on Tuesday and had another meeting with him on Friday.
In the Congress, Patole, who had resigned as the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker to become the party’s state unit chief, is insisting being inducted in the ministry. He is pushing for the energy portfolio currently held by Nitin Raut, who may be the Congress nominee for the Speaker’s post.
Raut, who is under attack from the BJP for allegedly splurging on the renovation of his bungalow and using a chartered flight during the lockdown, is however, reluctant to resign. He has argued that his adversaries within the Congress and opposition are running a campaign against him for being a Dalit.
As far as the Shiv Sena is concerned, Thackeray wants to get rid of ministers whose contribution in running their respective departments and the party organisation has not been impressive.