Despite Shiv Sena's perceived firmness, BJP showed no fear as the party stood its ground in allowing only two more minister of state berths for its regional ally as the Devendra Fadnavis-led government is set for an expansion on Friday. The Shiv Sena had also demanded for a cabinet portfolio.
According to sources, two Shiv Sena MLAs — Arjun Khotkar from Jalna and Gulabrao Patil from Jalgaon — will join the ministry as ministers of state on Friday.
This is for the second time the national party ignored the Shiv Sena within a week both at the Centre and the state level. After having offered a cold shoulder in the recent reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers, it was widely believed that the state unit of the BJP in Maharashtra might actually try to reach out to its ally.
Although there were indications of reigniting the flickering warmth from the BJP camp initially, the Shiv Sena had shown no excitement. The Shiv Sena in fact went into a huddle earlier in the day with its supremo Uddhav Thackeray, Sena leaders Subhash Desai, Diwakar Raote and Anil Desai in attendance. After the meeting that took place at Thackeray's residence Matoshree, the three leaders excluding the Sena chief met Fadnavis, sources told Firstpost. However, the meeting clearly did not help much as no cabinet berth was allotted to the regional outfit.
The Sena has five cabinet portfolios in the present Maharashtra ministry (and five MoS berths) while Thackeray is putting forward a demand for another cabinet berth. Although the chief minister is keen on reviving the thaw to ease tension in ties between the two allies, a section of the BJP is not in favour of giving another cabinet rank to its ally.
The 20-month-old Fadnavis government will fill up portfolios rendered vacant after the resignation of senior minister Eknath Khadse over corruption charges in June. The 10 portfolios handled by Khadse are temporarily with Fadnavis.
"The cabinet expansion will be held on Friday morning at 9 am at Vidhan Bhavan," a senior government official said.
While the BJP is expected to get five berths, Shiv Sena is likely to get two and the other BJP allies two.
The expansion comes ahead of the Monsoon Session starting 18 July and two days before Fadnavis begins his four-day Russia tour on 10 July.
The Fadnavis government, which has 19 cabinet ministers and 10 ministers of state, has 14 more berths to fill up. It is not known if all berths will be filled up on Friday.
BJP allies—Sadabhau Khot of Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha and Mahadev Jankar of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha—are likely to be inducted in the upcoming reshuffle.
Despite all the preparations for the expansion of the state cabinet on Friday, the silence from the Sena quarters is deafening as it is not known yet if the party will stay content with the two minister of state berths or will stick to its demand of another cabinet seat.
Probably, there will be some clarity later as Fadnavis is likely to meet the to be inducted ministers at his official residence Varsha at 8 pm on Thursday.
With inputs from PTI