Eighteen MLAs from the Maharashtra Assembly took oath as ministers on Tuesday morning as Eknath Shinde expanded his Cabinet more than a month after he was sworn in as the chief minister. Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari administered oath to the MLAs at the Raj Bhavan in Mumbai.
Nine leaders each from Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena were assigned their portfolios on Tuesday, according to ANI. The portfolios have not been announced yet.
In the days leading to the Cabinet expansion, a series of meetings took place between Shinde and the BJP leadership, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, NDTV reported.
Among prominent BJP leaders who were added to the Cabinet expansion on Tuesday are the party’s state unit chief Chandrakant Patil and former finance minister of Maharashtra, Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Vikhe Patil, who joined the BJP after quitting the Congress in 2019 has also been included in the Cabinet. Senior Shiv Sena leaders like Deepak Kesarkar, Gulabrao Patil and Dada Bhuse also joined the Cabinet on Tuesday.
Shinde said that the ministers will take up the responsibility from Tuesday, ANI reported. He said that the Cabinet is currently a small one, and the rest of it will be formed gradually.
Shinde also defended the induction of Shiv Sena MLA Sanjay Rathod, whose name was linked to the death of a woman in Pune last year, into the state Cabinet, according to PTI.
“During the MVA [Maha Vikas Aghadi government], he [Rathod] was given a clean chit,” the chief minister said. “If anyone has anything more to say on it, then that can be heard out.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated all those who took oath on Tuesday. “This team is a great blend of administrative experience and the passion to deliver good governance,” he said. “My best wishes to them for serving the people of the state.”
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi questioned why only one MLA from Mumbai was accommodated as a minister. “The step-motherly treatment to Mumbai is obvious,” she said. “Must feel for those who missed out despite betraying the Shiv Sena only to become mantris, don’t want to name & embarrass them further.”
Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule pointed out that no women MLAs were inducted into Shinde’s Cabinet. She alleged that the move shows the mindset of the BJP.
“Maharashtra was the first state in the country to give the reservation to women,” Sule said, according to PTI. “When 50% of India’s population is women, they are not represented in the state cabinet.”
Shinde took oath as the chief minister of Maharashtra on June 30 after he and several other Shiv Sena MLAs rebelled against party leader Uddhav Thackeray, toppling the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government. Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis was appointed as Shinde’s deputy.
However till Tuesday, despite being in power for 40 days, the Cabinet consisted of only Shinde and Fadnavis.
Media reports had attributed the delay to the case pending in the Supreme Court between factions of the Shiv Sena led by Thackeray and Shinde.
A legal battle is underway between the two groups to be recognised as the real Shiv Sena. The Thackeray-led faction has filed six petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the governor’s act of administering the oath of office to Shinde and questioning the election of the Maharashtra Speaker, among other things.