- Around 36 ministers of Cabinet and Minister of State ranks took oath
- Ajit Pawar took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra
- Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray is also a part of Maharashtra Cabinet
Ajit Pawar, a senior leader of Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party took oath as the Deputy of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray today – more than a month after he had sided with the BJP and became the deputy of Devendra Fadnavis. Mr Thackeray’s cabinet will also include his son Aaditya Thackeray, who is taking oath along with 34 other legislators. Ten of the 36 MLAs given ministerial berths today belong to the Congress. In November, Ajit Pawar broke ranks from his party to ally with the BJP and took oath along with Mr Fadnavis in an early morning surprise ceremony. But he quit hours before a Supreme Court-ordered floor test, ending the BJP’s dramatic 80-hour bid to seize power.
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While the ministerial portfolios are yet to be announced, there is speculation that Aaditya Thackeray will be offered the environment or the education portfolio. Former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is likely to get the public works department portfolio, sources said.
Congress’s Vijay Vadettivar, Varsha Gaikwad, senior NCP leader and Pankaja Munde’s cousin Dhananjay Munde, Anil Deshmukh and Dr Rajendra Shingane, a close aide of Ajit Pawar, and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Rathod were among those who took oath.
On November 28, Uddhav Thackeray had taken oath along with six others. Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut of Congress, Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai of the Shiv Sena and Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal of the NCP have been part of the cabinet.
Maharashtra can have a maximum of 43 ministers. The size of council of ministers cannot exceed 15 per cent of the total number of MLAs in the state, which is 288.
In November, as the Shiv Sena was working out an alliance with the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP, Ajit Pawar had turned against his party and joined forces with the BJP to capture power in the state. But his coup attempt failed, with most MLAs opting to stay with Sharad Pawar.
Sharad Pawar had virtually blamed the Congress, saying his nephew’s “extreme decision” was driven by Congress demands for extra portfolios. “But he realized this was not a correct decision and that’s why he came back early morning next day only. He saw me and withdrew from all this,” Mr Pawar said.
Ajit Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis had already been in talks – alongside the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena discussions – Mr Pawar admitted, adding, however, that he never thought his nephew would go to the extent he did.
On November 28, Ajit Pawar had attended Uddhav Thackeray’s oath ceremony but was not sworn in. His uncle called it a “conscious decision”.
Ajit Pawar, a seven-time MLA, has served as Deputy Chief Minister on two previous occasions, each time when a Congress-NCP alliance was in power.
The Sena-NCP-Congress coalition, dubbed the Maha Vikas Aghadi, came to power after weeks of negotiations between the ideologically mismatched parties who came up with a common minimum agenda.