Former Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, former NCP leader Jaydutt Kshirsagar, and RPI leader Avinash Mahatekar have been allotted cabinet ministerial berth in the Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra. The state government has undertaken the cabinet expansion a day prior to the commencement of the legislature’s monsoon session and four months ahead of the assembly polls. A petition has been filed by Advocate Satish Talekar in the Bombay High Court against the induction of these leaders as they are not the members of the legislative assembly or the legislative council.
When AV spoke to BJP spokesperson Avdhut Wagh, he said, “There is no provision as per the law that it is mandatory to be an MLA or MLC to become a minister. However, after becoming a minister, a candidate will have to get elected as MLA or MLC. Six months are remaining and everything will be finalised within this period. You will have to wait and watch. The government has taken the right step to induct these leaders as ministers and the party welcomes their decision.”
In the petition, it has been mentioned that the state government has flouted norms while allocating ministerial berths to Vikhe-Patil, Kshirsagar, and Mahatekar. The verdict of the high court is eagerly awaited. In the petition, it has been wondered how Vikhe-Patil, Kshirsagar, and Mahatekar can take an oath when they are not members of the legislative assembly or legislative council!
NCP IT cell National President Bindu Bhosale stated, “It is a wrong decision taken by the government to induct these leaders in the cabinet. Earlier Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil was the leader of the opposition from Congress party. He suddenly had switched loyalties towards the BJP. The government has inducted these leaders by sidelining their own party leaders just for the sake of gaining an upper hand over Congress-NCP.”
Moreover, the ministerial berths have been allotted to these leaders at a time when the tenure of the Fadnavis government is coming to an end. Assembly polls will be held in the state in October. Since the tenure of the state government will end after three months and these leaders can’t become members of the legislative assembly or legislative council within six months.
Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar said, “The government has taken the right step to allocate ministerial berth to Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Jaydutt Kshirsagar, and Avinash Mahatekar. One can be a minister without being an MLC or MLA for a period of six months.”
NCP leader Ajit Pawar has already raised this issue in the state legislature. On the other hand, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the rules have been followed while inducting these leaders in the cabinet. Vikhe-Patil, Kshirsagar, and Mahatekar have been allotted cabinet ministerial berths at a time when there is no emergency situation is prevalent. All these leaders will have to get elected as MLA or MLC within six months or else their ministerial berth will become void. This was the third expansion of the state cabinet.
Congress MLA Aslam Shaikh said, “The government can allocate ministerial berth to Vikhe-Patil, Kshirsagar, and Mahatekar but they will have to get elected as MLA or MLC within six months.”
The Devendra Fadnavis government took charge in November 2014 but Shiv Sena did not join the government at that time. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party joined the government in December that year during the first cabinet expansion. The second expansion of the cabinet was held in July 2016.