Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is all set to reshuffle and expand his cabinet, with two Sena ministers — Industries Minister Subhash Desai and Health Minister Deepak Sawant — likely to face an axe. Housing Minister Prakash Mehta, who is under scanner for corruption charges related to SRA projects, is likely to escape with just a demotion.
According to sources in Sena, party chief Uddhav Thackeray is not happy with the performance of Desai and Sawant. Matoshree has received several complaints against the two ministers, among them being avoiding party workers, not entertaining their requests and not doing anything impressive in their respective ministries that could have helped boost party’s image.
Desai, who recently turned 75, himself expressed his desire to be relieved from the ministry as he wants to work for the party more.
One more reason could be the corruption charges against Desai. The opposition parties on Friday trained their guns on Desai, accusing him of denotifiying the 400 hectares of land acquired for industrial estate near Nashik to favour builder who is close to Sena. The opposition is likely to press this issue over next week and demand his resignation.
Besides, out of Sena’s five cabinet ministers, four are from the Legislative Council so there is tremendous pressure on Thackeray from members of the Legislative Assembly for representation in the Cabinet.
A senior Sena MLA from western Maharashtra, who is serving his third term said, “Sena is not a natural party of governance, we have returned to power after 15 long years and there is no guarantee that we will be in the next government, so people like me who have completed three or four terms in the Assembly should get a chance to serve as ministers and help develop our constituencies.”
Sources close to Matoshree said, “One of the ministers who will replace Desai and Sawant will be definitely from the Assembly. However, no decision has been made on the names so far.”
On the other hand, Mehta, who is facing heat over corruption charges, including helping two builders in SRA projects earn hundreds of crores, is likely to get away with just rap on the knuckles. He will retain his place in the Cabinet but may be relieved of the high-profile housing ministry and also as a guardian minister of Raigad district. He may have to settle for some low-profile ministry.
The names doing rounds from the BJP for a place in the cabinet include party’s Mumbai president Ashish Shelar under whose leadership the party’s tally in the recent BMC election went up by more than two-fold.