Mumbai: The expansion of the Uddhav Thackeray-led council of ministers in Maharashtra is expected to take place before Christmas, according to a senior Congress leader.
"Expansion of the council of ministers is expected on December 23 or 24. Portfolio allocation has been done. Some departments might get swapped among the three parties," a senior Congress leader told PTI on Friday. Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as the chief minister of Maharashtra on November 28 along with six ministers -- two each from alliance partners the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress.
Portfolios in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, as it is called, were allotted on December 12. Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has been given the charge of home, urban development and other departments, while party veteran Subhash Desai has been given a number of portfolios, including agriculture, industries, higher and technical education.
NCP leader Jayant Patil has been allocated finance and planning, housing and others, while another party leader Chhagan Bhujbal has been given the charge of food, civil supplies and consumer protection, and minority welfare departments. The Congress' Balasaheb Thorat has been given revenue, energy, medical education, school education and other portfolios, while the party's another leader Nitin Raut has been allotted PWD, tribal welfare, women and child welfare, and other departments. The winter session of the state legislature, which is underway in Nagpur will end on Saturday.
Thackeray held talks with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress general secretary Mallikarjun Kharge in Nagpur on Thursday over the expansion of the council of ministers. Maharashtra can have 43 ministers, including the chief minister, since the size of the council of ministers should be 15 per cent of the strength of the Assembly, which has 288 members.
A Congress leader said that a decision will be taken whether to induct former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan in the Thackeray-led council of ministers or only one of them. "Ashok Chavan has served as cabinet minister in the state before becoming the chief minister. He has experience in the state administration, unlike Prithviraj Chavan who was a MoS in the Union Cabinet before becoming the chief minister," the leader said.
Meanwhile, political observers said it remains to be seen if NCP chief Sharad Pawar inducts Ajit Pawar in the council of ministers despite his rebellion and joining hands with BJP to form a government that lasted only 80 hours. "Inducting Ajit Pawar will mean Sharad Pawar was in the know about his nephew's plans," the observers feel.