Maharashtra gets a government at last
R R Patil is back as Maharashtra’s home minister, reinstated to the post he had to step down from almost a year ago after the deadly 26/11 terror attacks. Patil had to quit the post after making a statement in Hindi that appeared to play down the deadly attacks. The statement, blamed on his poor knowledge of the language, had showed him in a bad light and was the immediate trigger for him being asked to leave the post. While NCP chief Sharad Pawar thought it fit to reinstate him as home minister, reliable sources said the Congress also preferred Patil as home minister. The other aspirant, deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, had repeatedly said during the bargaining for portfolios that if the Congress did not agree to the 1999 formula for power sharing, the NCP would support the government from the outside. Intra-party fights within the Congress and the NCP were responsible for the portfolios being finalised at a late hour on Sunday. Chief minister Ashok Chavan announced the allocation of portfolios at around 11.30 pm on Sunday night. There was a day-long tussle between senior Congress ministers Narayan Rane and Patangrao Kadam for the creamy and politically sensitive revenue portfolio. Both of them wanted the revenue portfolio as it gives the minister in charge immense control over the bureaucracy. Finally, the chief minister gave it to Rane. Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal has been given Public Works Department, the same portfolio he held in the previous ministry. Chavan has kept for himself the General Administration Department and the all-important Urban Development portfolio. He will also hold the housing and cultural affairs portfolios. Senior NCP minister Ajit Pawar, who felt rebuffed when his uncle Sharad Pawar made Bhujbal the deputy chief minister, has got his reward. Ajit has bagged two major infrastructural portfolios, power and water conservation, in the new Maharashtra cabinet. Sunil Tatkare, who was power minister in the outgoing cabinet, has become the state’s new finance minister. Tatkare is known to be close to Ajit Pawar. Andheri MLA Suresh Shetty of the Congress has been given public health along with sports and environment. Jayant Patil, who was home minister in the previous ministry, has been given the rural development portfolio. The portfolio has several welfare schemes for the poor in rural areas. Worli MLA Sachin Ahir has been made the minister of state for housing while Balasaheb Thorat has been given agriculture and also additional charge of school education. Rajendra Darda has been made minister of industries. Ramraje Nimbalkar will take charge of the as Krishna Valley development deparment. Laxman Dhobale, who was education minister in the outgoing cabinet, will be in charge of water supply. Jaydutt Kshirsagar will hold the MSRDC portfolio. It took a fortnight of hard bargaining between the Congress and NCP before the ruling allies decided their share of ministerial berths. After that it took just a day to announce the portfolios, but some of the intra-party fights involved equally hard bargaining. By the end of Sunday though, Chavan managed to stick to Saturday’s promise, that portfolios would be announced in a day’s time. Sources in the Congress said that both Kadam and Rane vied for the revenue portfolio. Kadam had taken over revenue after 26/11. Rane had the portfolio till 26/11. Thereafter he had been suspended from the Congress party due to statements he made regarding people in the government allegedly helping the attackers. After he was reinstated, he had been given the industries portfolio. The district collectors and divisional commissioners report to the revenue minister. The ministerial council had a cabinet meeting on Sunday morning. Later, chief minister Ashok Chavan and his Congress ministers had a meeting. The NCP ministers had a meeting with their chief Sharad Pawar. In the meeting, Pawar reportedly told the ministers to keep the government’s image clean and not ignore party work.Pawar and the chief minister also had a meeting to solve the fight for portfolios.