For the second time this week the ruling BJP’s biggest ally, the Shiv Sena, has set aside its reservations on an issue and reposed faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Sena’s lone minister in the new cabinet, Anant Geete, took charge of the ministry allotted to him.
Mr. Geete had refused to take charge of the Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Ministry yesterday, demanding a change in portfolio. Mr. Modi spoke to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on the phone and resolved the issue, Sena leader Sanjay Raut said.
Sources said the Shiv Sena could now get more Minister of State posts in a cabinet expansion expected in a few weeks.
“It is true that we would have wanted a portfolio where we could have a direct connection with people but no one is upset. We discussed this with the PM and he has assured us that the Shiv Sena’s concerns will be addressed,” Mr. Geete told, and added “My immediate priority would be to change the perception of this ministry and improve the condition of the sick public sector enterprises.”
Mr. Geete had said yesterday, “Uddhav Thackeray will take a call tomorrow (Wednesday) on whether I should take charge of the ministry. We want a change of portfolio.”
On Monday, Mr. Thackeray had attended Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony despite voicing misgivings about Mr. Modi’s invitation to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the function.
The two parties led an alliance that swept Maharashtra in the general elections winning 42 of the 48 seats – the Sena won 18, the BJP 23 and the Swabhimani Paksha Party won one seat.
Mr. Modi rewarded five of the BJP’s 12 partners who have won seats in the Lok Sabha, with a place each in his council of ministers. The BJP has 282 seats in the Lok Sabha and does not depend on its allies for a majority in the lower house. But it needs all the support it can garner in the Rajya Sabha or upper house.
Assembly elections are due in Maharashtra later this year and the BJP and Sena hope to replicate their success in the general election and overthrow the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government that has ruled the state for over a decade.