Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday met Union Home Minister Amit Shah amid discussions about an expansion of the state cabinet.
Shah was closeted with Shinde and Fadnavis at his North Block office in Delhi after a meeting with the representatives of the sugar cooperative sector, all BJP leaders, to discuss issues related to the sector.
“Shinde and Fadnavis had a separate meeting with Shah," two BJP leaders who attended the sugar sector meeting said.
After the meeting, Shinde told reporters that the expansion of the state cabinet will take place before the budget session of the Maharashtra assembly.
There are currently 20 cabinet ministers, including Shinde, in the state. The maximum strength of the Maharashtra cabinet can be 43.
Asked about the petitions before the Election Commission of the rival factions of Shiv Sena for allotment of the party’s ‘bow and arrow’ symbol, Shinde said he was confident that his group will be recognised as the real Shiv Sena.
“The Election Commission will decide on the issue on the basis of merit. In a democracy there is importance attached to majority. So, we expect a decision based on merit," Shinde said.
“Now, as per merit, we are in power, we are in the government, we enjoy majority. We have established the rule of law. So, everyone is aware what the decision that will be taken as per law and merit," Shinde said.
Earlier in Mumbai, Fadnavis said there was no legal or constitutional hurdle in the expansion of the state cabinet and they will try to do it before the upcoming budget session of the legislature.
The budget session will start from February 27, state Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar had earlier said.
Shinde became the chief minister with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s support on June 30 last year after a rebellion led by him against the Shiv Sena leadership led to the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-headed Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
The revolt had also led to a division in the Shiv Sena, with one faction headed by Thackeray and the other by Shinde.
“The state cabinet will be expanded soon. We started with just two (Shinde and Fadnavis) at the beginning, then added 18 members to our cabinet portfolio. We will add more as well," CM Shinde said at an event organised by regional news channel ABP Majha.
People want leaders who will work for them and address their issues, Shinde said.
Responding to a question at the event, Fadnavis said, “There is no legal or constitutional hurdle in expanding the current cabinet. We will try to do it before the upcoming state budget session."
The BJP leader noted that the limited number of cabinet ministers holding multiple portfolios puts pressure on time management during the session of the state legislature, which comprises the Assembly and the Council.
“The state government has already been formed, but some expansion is pending. This government is functional legally and constitutionally," Fadnavis added.
The Supreme Court recently said it would commence hearing on February 14 on a batch of pleas related to the Maharashtra political crisis triggered by the Shiv Sena’s division, including the one seeking the disqualification of 16 Sena MLAs from the Shinde camp.
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