5:04 am - Wednesday January 16, 2019

Maharashtra BJP legislature party to elect its leader today; initial cabinet likely to be compact

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MUMBAI: A high-level BJP team on Monday held discussions on the initial size of the cabinet and possible names for key portfolios ahead of Friday’s swearing-in of a new government in the state.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked us to ensure that the size of the cabinet is as small as possible and maximum emphasis is on providing a results-oriented administration,” a senior BJP leader told TOI after the team’s meeting.

Accordingly, in the first round of portfolio distribution, less than a dozen cabinet members will be inducted and a number of departments merged. A source said that the Krishna Valley Development Corporation may be merged with the water resources department, and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) with the public works department (PWD).

There’s likely to be a single cabinet minister for medical education, public health, and food and drug administration, and another for home and transport.

Devendra Fadnavis, who is a certainty for the post of chief minister, is expected to keep the general administration, urban development and housing department portfolios with himself.At the team’s meeting, the home department was proposed to be entrusted with Fadnavis, but he declined it. Eknath Khadse, the leader of opposition in the previous assembly, too was considered, but he wants revenue or finance. The portfolio is now proposed for Vinod Tawde or former state BJP president Sudhir Mungantiwar. Tawde has also been considered for the MSRDC-PWD profile.

The late Gopinath Munde’s daughter Pankaja is under consideration for women and child development, and a few other portfolios. Pune-based BJP leader Girish Bapat is a possibility for speaker, but he is said to have his sights set on a plum cabinet berth.

Mumbai’s Prakash Mehta and Ashok Shelar, Buldhana’s Chainsukh Sancheti, Pune’s Madhuri Pisal, and Aurangabad’s Haribhau Bagde too are under consideration for the cabinet.

“The final decision will be taken by BJP president Amit Shah,” a senior BJP leader said.

On the matter of previous scams, he said judicial probes have been proposed for the irrigation and Maharashtra Sadan scams; though the ACB is probing these and the Bandra government colony scam, the state BJP feels a retired judge of the Bombay high court should conduct investigations as well. On the Adarsh commission’s recommendations, the BJP leader said a review has been proposed.

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