Aditya Thackeray for Deputy CM? Maharashtra Cabinet Expansion May Throw Up Surprises
In what may be the most anticipated political event in the run up to assembly elections due in three months from now, Maharashtra cabinet expansion.
Sources in BJP's ally Shiv Sena, say that the party has in recent meetings held with state and national BJP leadership, demanded the post of deputy Chief Minister and deputy Lok Sabha speaker. Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut recently upped the ante when he issued a statement saying it was Shiv Sena’s ‘natural claim’ and ‘right’ to get Deputy Speaker post in Lok Sabha because it was the second largest party within NDA folds.
Sources also say that 29-year-old Aditya Thackeray is being pushed by the Shiv Sena as its nominee for deputy CM's chair. Speculations about this started after Aditya's meeting with Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. Another name being suggested for this chair is that of senior Shiv Sena leader and current state cabinet minister Eknath Shinde.
Apart from Aditya and Shinde, some of the names being rumoured to be among those who are likely to find a berth in the cabinet expansion are Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, the Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly who is likely to join BJP. However, sources said that a decision on his joining is in the doldrums after deliberations between Amit Shah and Fadnavis.
Amond others being considered are former NCP minister Jaydutt Kshirsagar, who recently joined Shiv Sena, BJP MLAs Sanjay Kute, Prashant Bamb and Atul Save.
With the conclusion of the cabinet expansion, discussions are likely to start on the seat sharing formula for assembly elections. BJP, which went ahead and fought the polls last time, bagged 122 seats in the 288-seat house. This time it may have to let go of some of those seats when it comes to bargaining with the Shiv Sena.
When Fadnavis recently talked about its "equitably sharing power and posts" with BJP's allies in the state and said that the alliance was struck not for “seats and posts but for the larger ideological reasons", Shiv Sena interpreted this as sharing of the chief minister’s post for two and half years each.
Though sources within the party say that the seat-sharing formula has not come up for discussion yet. though the party has not officially taken this position. In February itself, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut claimed the next chief minister would be from Shiv Sena.
Fadanavis is believed to have told his party workers that seat-sharing talks with Shiv Sena won't start unless he gets clearance from the capital where Amit Shah and Uddhav Thackeray have been deliberating on this issue for some time. How solid will these negotiations be, we may get the first clues from Friday's cabinet expansion.