Rebel NCP leader Ajit Pawar has been allocated the Finance Ministry in the Maharashtra cabinet expansion, nearly two weeks after his defection and subsequent joining of the Maharashtra government under the leadership of Eknath Shinde.
In addition to Pawar securing the desired Finance Ministry, the NCP rebels have also obtained two significant ministries. Dilip Walse Patil has been appointed as the Minister of Cooperation, while Dhananjay Munde has been assigned the Agriculture Ministry. The remaining six rebel ministers have also been allocated various other portfolios.
After nearly two weeks of discussions among the allies, the cabinet expansion has finally taken place. The delay was primarily attributed to the Shinde faction's reluctance to give the Finance and Planning portfolios to Ajit Pawar.
Quit MVA because Ajit Pawar did not give funds for development projects, Shiv Sena rebels had said
Displeased by the inclusion of NCP ministers, legislators belonging to the Shinde group had held discussions with their leader and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, expressing their opinion that important portfolios such as finance, irrigation, and public works should not be entrusted to ministers affiliated with the Ajit faction of NCP.
They raised concerns that during Ajit Pawar's tenure as the finance minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, a disproportionate amount of funds were allocated to projects in NCP strongholds, which bolstered NCP's influence in the state at the expense of the Shiv Sena. The ministers conveyed to Shinde that if NCP were to regain control of these portfolios, it would diminish the Shinde faction's standing in the government and coalition, potentially pushing them to a lower position. They urged Shinde to resist any attempts to hand over significant portfolios to NCP.
The Shinde camp's unease regarding Ajit's appointment to the finance portfolio was anticipated. When they withdrew from the MVA, MLAs from the Shinde faction had accused the NCP of sidelining them and specifically criticised Ajit's finance department for its biased distribution of funds favoring NCP areas.
Shinde risks upsetting his supporter legislators
However, BJP leaders contended that while acknowledging the legitimate concerns of the Shiv Sena faction, the NCP faction should be accorded portfolios that are 'befitting its stature'.
CM Eknath Shinde, however, risks upsetting his supporter MLAs who were awaiting for ministerial births, including guardian ministers of districts, for a long time.
"What can we achieve by getting angry? There will be some anger when those who expected full loaf of bread get half and those who expected half a loaf get a quarter," Shinde faction MLA Bharat Gogawale had said.
Gogawale had opposed NCP leader Aditi Tatkare being made guardian minister for the Raigad district.