The much-awaited Maharashtra cabinet expansion took place on December 30, with 25 Cabinet ministers and 13 Ministers of State (MoS) taking oath in Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's government.
While there were some unexpected inductions, and some expected but much scorned upon ones, the Cabinet expansion has left some leaders from the three parties that form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), unhappy and hurt.
Before we go on to the problems within the MVA alliance due to the Cabinet expansion, let us take a look at some of the significant— and symbolic— inductions which will decide the course of the Maharashtra government in months to come.
Ajit Pawar: Within a month of taking oath as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra in the Bharatiya Janata Party's Devendra Fadnavis government— and then resigning within two days— Pawar was back at the post, this time with a rival alliance at the helm.
Sources said that Pawar, who is Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar's nephew, still holds clout within the party despite his rebellion. According to sources, while Pawar's return to the Cabinet is being looked at suspiciously by the Sena and Congress, there is not much that the two parties can do regarding his induction.
"The official line regarding Pawar's return is that all is well and everything is forgiven," a source said.
Aaditya Thackeray: At 29, the first-time MLA from Worli is the youngest Cabinet minister in the state, and is not expected to get a hefty portfolio. However, his induction is being seen as a giant leap to project him as a future heavyweight leader, within Sena, in the state and in the government.
Ashok Chavan: Chavan, who has served as the CM of the state before, is influential within the state Congress fold. While his name was being excluded as a minister earlier, his return was mainly due to the favour that he finds with a number of legislators in the party.
According to sources, Chavan had also played a vital role in pushing the state leadership to join the government in Maharashtra.
Dhananjay Munde: Munde was one of the legislators who had reportedly supported Ajit Pawar when he had jumped ship to join hands with the BJP. He had, however, returned to the Sharad Pawar fold when the senior Pawar had called for a meeting of all of his MLAs.
Now a minister, the former Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Legislative Council will be hoping to firm up his base within the party, and in his constituency of Parli.
Nawab Malik: The face of NCP and sometimes the MVA during the formation of the alliance and the government in Maharashtra, Malik is also the NCP's minorities face and could work as a representative for both the party and the government.
The induction of these leaders as ministers has also been a cause of problem for the MVA. Leaders and legislators particularly from the Congress and Shiv Sena, sources said, are feeling slighted for various reasons.
"For instance, the Home ministry portfolio, which is currently with Sena, might go to NCP. That has not gone down well with the Sena leaders," another source said, adding that legislators close to former CM Prithviraj Chavan are also unhappy over the leader being ignored during the expansion of the cabinet.
"There is talk that Chavan might be offered a central role, such as a general secretary post, but his supporters are not happy with that," a Congress functionary in Maharashtra said, adding that one of the reasons the central leadership might have overlooked Chavan could be because it wants him to play a role in national politics, a wish that it had expressed during the Assembly polls.
Within the Sena camp, according to reports, the party's spokesperson and Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Sanjay Raut is reportedly upset with the party ignoring his brother, Sunil, during the Cabinet expansion. Raut had also skipped the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-inducted ministers.
Another Sena leader considered close to Uddhav, Ravindra Waikar's exclusion has also not gone down well within the party, sources said. However, according to a Sena leader, these are "minor quibbles" which won't affect the alliance or the government.