Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

Maharashtra Cabinet Expansion: Eknath Shinde Not The Only CM To Run A State Without Proper Cabinet

Shiv Sena's Eknath Shinde and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis were sworn in as chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively on June 30 after resignation of Uddhav Thackeray. The duo has since been functioning as a two-member cabinet in Maharashtra.

From left to right: KCR, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Eknath Shinde and BS Yediyurappa
From left to right: KCR, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Eknath Shinde and BS Yediyurappa PTI

With Opposition's increasing targeting of new Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde for running a "sacheevalaya" instead of "mantralay" in the state since coming to power over a month ago, the Shinde government has decided to finally expand its cabinet. The Maharashtra government will be announcing the cabinet expansion on Tuesday, 41 days after Shinde took oath as the CM. As per reports, the swearing-in ceremony is set to be held at Raj Bhavan in south Mumbai at 11 am today. Altogether 18 ministers will be sworn in. They will include nine each from the Shinde group and BJP, PTI reported.

This would take the strength of the Maharashtra ministry to 20, less than half the maximum allowed strength of 43. The next round of expansion would take place later, he said.

Two-man government

Shinde and Fadnavis were sworn in as chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively on June 30 after the resignation of Uddhav Thackeray due to a rebellion in the Shiv Sena ranks. The duo has since been functioning as a two-member cabinet, inviting criticism from opposition leaders, including NCP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. Responding to the barbs, Fadnavis said the expansion will take place “before you can even imagine”.

Cabinet expansions can be a tricky thing and the BJP-endorsed Shinde will have to walk the tightrope while crafting a fine regional and political balance. Maharashtra, however, is not the first state to be running without a proper cabinet for over a month. In fact, similar circumstances have occurred twice in the recent past in states including Karnataka, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.

KCR in Telangana

When K Chandrashekhar Rao became the chief minister of Telangana in 2019, the state ran without a cabinet for over two months. He was sworn in as the CM on December 13 but only assigned cabinet portfolios on February 19, a good 66 days after becoming the chief minister. According to reports, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief who is known to be superstitious chose to defer the cabinet expansion to time it with an auspicious date.

Yediyurappa in Karnataka

Former Karnataka CM BS Yediyurapps ran a solo show for 25 days in 2919 when he singlehandedly ran the BJP government in the state. Yediyurappa was sworn in on July 26, 2019. However, according to reports, the veteran leader was not allowed to expand his cabinet for 24 days by the BJP leadership. It was only after the Lingayat leader got a go-ahead from BJP central leadership, that he inducted the first batch of ministers into his cabinet on August 20.

Yediyurappa's ascendence to the CM's throne followed a similar pattern as in Maharashtra where the resignation of 17 disqualified Congress-JD(S) MLAs from the Assembly paved the way for the BJP to gain power. Following the rebellion, the HD Kumaraswamy government of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition failed to win trust vote and lost power. Sixteen of the disqualified Cong-JDS(S) MLAs joined the BJP and 13 were given tickets in bypoll elections. The Congress accused the BJP of horse-trading and "buying" MLAs.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan in MP

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan was criticised over the delays in cabinet expansion after the BJP came to power in the state following mass resignations in the previous Congress government in 2020. The Kamal Nath government collapsed when 22 former Congress MLAs and Scindia loyalists resigned in March 2020. Chouhan returned as CM for the fourth time on March 23, becoming the longest serving BJP CM in office.  The cabinet was expanded on July 1. As the new government coincided with the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, the government was criticized for not assigning ministers to crucial portfolios like the health ministry at a time when the state was facing a health crisis. According to reports, Chouhan was under pressure from BJP high command which did not agree with his proposals for certain portfolios the CM had assigned to his loyalists.

(With inputs from PTI)