A recent spat between the Shiv Sena and the BJP through their respective mouthpieces had made colourful references to Gabbar Singh and the jailor—iconic characters from the film Sholay. After Uddhav Thackeray was referred to as the jailor, the Sena returned the favour by referring to BJP president Amit Shah as Gabbar Singh. Although the two characters never met in the celluloid version, a meeting between Thackeray and Shah was expected to take place in the context of the proposed cabinet expansion. But eventually, as it turned out, the meeting was not to be.
There appears to be yet another rift between the Shiv Sena and the BJP over the proposed expansion. The BJP's chief Amit Shah is meeting more than 16 MPs from his party. From Maharashtra, the leaders who met Shah included Ramdas Athawale(who has been nominated by the BJP to the Rajya Sabha), Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Dr Subhash Bhamre. But no leaders from the Shiv Sena—not even party president Uddhav Thackeray or Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai—could meet the BJP chief on Monday. This comes even as the cabinet expansion is just hours away.
On last Tuesday, Shah is believed to have expressed his anguish over some recent incidents involving the Sena, leading the state unit of the party also to follow suit. Shah's criticism of the Shiv Sena had taken place during a high-level meeting held at the party's office in Nariman point organised by BJP state unit president Raosaheb Danve.
Party insiders told Firstpost that Shah was particularly unhappy over the fact that his photographs were displayed during demonstrations by the Shiv Sena against the BJP at various cities. The Sena had also burnt the effigy of Mumbai city president Ashish Shelar.
Meanwhile, Uddhav Thackeray told media persons at Shiv Sena Bhavan on Monday afternoon that there was a need for clarity on the part of the BJP. "The Sena will never stand helplessly on anybody's doors asking for anything. Earlier, the BJP had promised a cabinet berth and now they are only offering the post of a minister of state. They should be clear about what they are offering us," he said.
Sources told Firstpost that the Sena had asked for one cabinet berth and one post of minster with independent charge in the union government. However, the BJP is only willing to give them posts of two ministers of state. "While Anupriya Patel from Apna Dal is being given a cabinet berth although it has only two MP, the Shiv Sena, which has 18 MPs, is being sidelined," the source said.
Meanwhile, the new faces from Maharashtra will be RPI president Ramdas Athwale, BJP vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Dhule MP from BJP Dr Subhash Bhamre. While Athwale is from the Dalit community, Sahasrabuddhe is a Brahmin, and Dr Bhamre from the Maratha community.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday attended a meeting with party president Amit Shah. Sources confirmed that after the expansion of Modi government's cabinet on Tuesday, an expansion of the Maharashtra cabinet is likely before 10 July.
The monsoon session of the Maharashtra assembly begins on on July 18. Earlier, CM Fadnavis had said, “I am planning to carry out a cabinet expansion before the session.” Insiders indicated that it is likely to happen before 10 July. The chief minister is on a tour of Russia tour from 10 to 16 July.
The rejig will be to ensure that all sections and regions are represented in the cabinet. There will be an effort to induct at least one cabinet member from north Maharashtra in the wake of the resignation of senior minister Eknath Khadse. Also, there will be at least two candidates representing the Other Backward Castes (OBC) community. After the resignation of revenue minister Eknath Khadse, Maharashtra has a total of 29 ministers, out of which 19 are from the BJP and 10 are from the Shiv Sena
The maximum permitted strength of Maharashtra's council of ministers is 42. Fadnavis indicated that he is unlikely to fill all the cabinet posts. At least five candidates from the BJP could be inducted, along with two from smaller alliance partners Rashtriya Samaj Party (RSP), Shivsangram Sanghatana and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana. The names of Mahadev Jankar from the RSP, Vinayak Mete from the Shivsangram Sanghatana and the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana's Sadabhau Khot have almost been finalised. All three will be ministers of state.
The Shiv Sena may get two more ministers of state. Kolhapur MLA Sujit Minchekar, Nanded's Pratap Patil Chikhlikar, Jalna’s Arjun Khotakar, Jalgaon's Gulabrao Patil, and MLC Dr Neelam Gorhe in the race. Uddhav Thackeray will take the final decision after the cabinet rejig at the centre, sources said.
At present, the Shiv Sena members in the state cabinet are mostly from Mumbai and the Konkan region. By inducting faces from Marathwada and western Maharashtra, the Sena leadership wants to clear misconceptions about it being against rural interests. Further, it also wants to achieve a balance between different regions of the state.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Surface Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari on Sunday had separate meetings with RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. Though what transpired in the meeting was not unknown, speculations were rife that the meetings were about the impending cabinet expansions at the Centre and state.