Shinde, Fadnavis take turns to fall ill

Both Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis are playing pretend games of illness and indisposition to buy time until the Supreme Court ruling expected on Monday, observers say

File photos of Eknath Shinde, Devendra Fadnavis
File photos of Eknath Shinde, Devendra Fadnavis

Sujata Anandan / Mumbai

What is happening with the government in Maharashtra?

Last week Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was all set to visit New Delhi to finalise his cabinet list but Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis felt indisposed. Shinde then cancelled his flight and waited for him to recover.

On Thursday this week, Fadnavis flew to Delhi to finalise the list while Shinde demurred and said he couldn't go because he was very unwell and sequestered himself behind locked doors. He said he would take some time to recover.

Yet National Herald has reasons to believe that he was well enough to receive visiting diplomats to the city. Perhaps he took advantage of the fact that Fadnavis was not in town, to secure an independent meeting with a dignitary without having his deputy looking over his shoulder and stealing his thunder from him?

Earlier this week when Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamad Solih was on a state visit to Mumbai, Shinde was conspicuous by his absence at the Raj Bhavan where the dignitary was greeted by Fadnavis instead, against all the norms of protocol.

Shinde has been shown up as inadequate on more than one occasion by Fadnavis and the humiliation seems to be getting to the man. However, in the see-saw between the CM and his deputy, regarding visits to Delhi for the cabinet expansion, political observers are of the view that both are working together to deliberately sow suspicions in the minds of the rebels that they are in discord and keep them in a state of confusion.

That’s because they want to stem the restlessness in their ranks as rebels seem to have become “trishankus”, caught between Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde. There are reports circulating which suggest a couple of them have even sent messages to Uddhav Thackeray stating they are caught in a bind because of the Enforcement Directorate and they must bide their time with the Shinde group to see how things go before returning to the Shiv Sena. Now if these message senders do not find themselves on the cabinet list they could well swing back to Uddhav Thackeray and many others could follow suit.

It is to prevent this scenario that not only is the cabinet not being expanded but both Shinde and Fadnavis are playing pretend games of illness and indisposition to buy time until the Supreme Court ruling expected on Monday, observers say.

Not surprisingly, Fadnavis came tearing back to Mumbai (did he not want to leave things to Shinde for too long, including dignitary visits?) on Friday without a cabinet list but with a statement that leaders in Delhi had agreed to a 60:40 ratio for cabinet expansion.

He did not elaborate who would get the greater share but with the law permitting only 42 ministers in Maharashtra to represent an Assembly strength of 288, and with the BJP having 105 MLAs and the Shinde camp only 40-odd, this could only mean that BJP will get 60 percent of the ministerial berths and Shinde 40. In actual numbers this could mean 25-odd for the BJP and less than 15 for the Shinde camp.

Shinde is said to have promised every rebel who joined him a cabinet berth. So, with more than half of them likely to be disappointed, the duo, say political analysts, consider it wise to keep the MLAs confused.

Not surprisingly, Deepak Kesarkar, spokesperson for the Shinde group, confused the issue further by stating that the cabinet members will be appointed by Sunday, even ahead of the Supreme Court ruling while senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar, close to Fadnavis, muddled the waters even more by stating that while he does not know when exactly the cabinet expansion could take place, it would have to happen by August 14 as guardian ministers would need to be in their respective assigned districts to hoist the national flag at the district headquarters on the platinum jubilee of India’s independence.

That had several MLAs rushing to Shinde’s home for clarification but they were turned back and asked to allow the chief minister to rest. Yet Shinde was well enough to meet anyone who was not asking for a cabinet berth.

So, it would seem something, while not quite rotten, is not quite right in the state of Maharashtra.

(Views are personal)

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Published: 05 Aug 2022, 9:12 PM