MUMBAI: Less than four months before the assembly elections, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday expanded his cabinet, inducting 13 new ministers. According to a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister, the expansion was carried out to accommodate aspirants from BJP, senior leaders from the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party who recently switched to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and smaller allies. “It is an exercise aimed at strengthening the NDA before the assembly elections and take everybody on board," the BJP leader said requesting anonymity.
Maharashtra legislature’s monsoon session begins from Monday and it would be the last legislative session before the assembly elections likely in October.
Among the newly sworn in ministers is ex-Congress leader and former leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who recently quit the Congress party and whose son Sujay was elected on a BJP ticket from Ahmednagar constituency in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Ironically, Vikhe-Patil has not yet formally joined the BJP from whose quota he has been made cabinet minister. This is a sort of homecoming for the veteran politician from Ahmednagar since he was a minister from the Shiv Sena in the first Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra from 1995 to 1999. Later, he went back to the Congress and was leader of the opposition in assembly. Vikhe-Patil, as leader of the opposition, had made several allegations of corruption against a number of BJP-Shiv Sena ministers.
Among the 13 ministers, eight have been given the cabinet rank and five are ministers of state. Besides Vikhe-Patil, BJP Mumbai president Ashish Shelar, senior BJP leaders Suresh Khade, Sanjay Kute, Ashok Uike, and Anil Bonde, Shiv Sena’s Tanaji Sawan, and former NCP leader who recently joined the Shiv Sena Jaydutt Kshirsagar have been given cabinet rank.
The new ministers of state are Sanjay Bhegde, Atul Save, Yogesh Sagar, SanjayBhegde, and Parinay Fuke from the BJP, and Avinash Mahatekar from the Republican Party of India (Athawale), which is part of NDA.