Mumbai: Weeks after squabbling over allocation of portfolios, the Shiv Sena finally joined the BJP-led government in Maharashtra on Friday when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expanded his 34-day-old cabinet.
Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office to 20 ministers, including 10 from BJP. Ten cabinet ministers, five each from BJP and Sena, were sworn in.
Cabinet ministers who took the oath were Girish Bapat (BJP), Girish Mahajan (BJP), Diwakar Raote (Shiv Sena), Subhash Desai (SS), Ramdas Kadam (SS), Eknath Shinde (SS), Chandrashekhar Bawankule (BJP), Babanrao Lonikar (BJP), Dr Deepak Sawant (SS) and Rajkumar Badole (BJP).
Ministers of state sworn in were Ram Shinde (BJP), Vijay Deshmukh (BJP), Sanjay Rathod (Shiv Sena), Dada Bhuse (SS), Vijay Shivtare (SS), Deepak Kesarkar (SS), Raje Amrish Atram (BJP), Ravindra Waikar (SS), Dr Ranjit Patil (BJP) and Pravin Pote (BJP).
Two more Sena ministers are expected to take oath during the next cabinet expansion, possibly after the winter session of the state legislature. The expansion of Devendra Fadnavis government was done ahead of the crucial Winter Session which is scheduled to begin in Nagpur on December 8. The cabinet expansion ceremony held at Vidhan Bhawan.
This is the first instance in Maharashtra where an opposition party has joined the ruling party in an alliance government. The reunion of the two parties, which snapped ties just before Assembly polls in October, is expected to provide greater stability with the strength of the alliance now being 183 — well past the halfway mark of 144 in the Assembly.
The BJP has a strength of 121 legislators and the Shiv Sena 63.
When Fadnavis was sworn in as the Chief Minister on October 31, nine other ministers, all from BJP, took oath. No Sena minister was sworn in then, as talks between the two parties, which had contested the Assembly polls separately, were inconclusive.
NCP had offered "unsolicited" outside support to the BJP government, which won a trust vote earlier this month.
Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his family members were present today to witness his partymen, who were wearing saffron phetas (turbans), being sworn in. RPI leader Ramdas Athawale and Shivsangram leader Vinayak Mete, whose parties were BJP's pre-poll allies, were also present. However, no one from these two parties was sworn in.
Congress and NCP leaders, who had attended the October 31 ceremony, were conspicuous by their absence.
The last time BJP and Sena were in power was during 1995-99 when it was the Sena which was in the role of 'big brother' and had the Chief Minister's post while BJP had Deputy Chief Minister's post.
This time, the roles have been reversed; however Sena does not even have the solace of having one of its leaders as Deputy Chief Minister as Fadnavis yesterday said the ministry won't have this post.
Announcing the formation of a 'yuti' (alliance) government here yesterday, Fadnavis, flanked by senior Sena leaders, said the two parties had decided to run the government in alliance "to honour the sentiment of the people who want to see the Sena and BJP work together for Maharashtra".
After the 25-year-old Sena-BJP alliance broke up just before the October elections, Sena consciously targeted its former ally during the election campaign. With BJP failing to achieve a simple majority in the elections and Sena getting nowhere close to the number needed to form the government, revival of the alliance became imperative for both.
Today's expansion will bring relief to the government as it readies for its first full-fledged winter session of the legislature that starts on Monday in Nagpur, the state's second capital. Another expansion is also likely on cards after the Winter Session in Nagpur.
A decision on including other smaller alliance partners in the cabinet would be taken in due course, Fadnavis said.
Political analysts say the Shiv Sena's decision was prompted largely by apprehensions that the party could split if it continued in the opposition, with the splinter group joining the BJP.
(With Agency inputs)