Facing flak over non-representation of women in Maharashtra’s expanded Cabinet, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday said female legislators will be surely inducted in the ministry in the next round of expansion.
Forty-one days after taking oath, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde earlier in the day expanded his cabinet by inducting 18 new members – nine each of the rebel Shiv Sena group and the BJP – but no woman legislator found a place in his team, inviting criticism from opposition parties and activists. With the expansion, the strength of the Shinde ministry has gone up to 20.
Responding to the criticism, Fadnavis said in Mumbai, “There will be women in the next cabinet expansion for sure. Earlier, people were critical of us for delay in the cabinet expansion, but now they have come up with something new.” “When Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led government had taken oath (in November 2019), there was not a single woman cabinet minister in it. Nobody had then criticized that government,” said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader.
Thackeray was sworn-in as chief minister in November 2019 along with five ministers from supporting parties the Congress and the NCP. Women members were inducted into the Council of Ministers later.
Asked about the induction of rebel Sena MLA Sanjay Rathod in the new cabinet, Fadnavis said Chief Minister Shinde has already clarified the stand on it and there was no need for further comment.
Rathod, who was the forest minister in the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, was forced to resign last year after BJP leaders blamed him for a woman’s suicide in Pune.
Shinde, speaking to reporters earlier, said the MVA government had given a “clean chit” to Rathod and hence his name was considered for a Cabinet position this time.
In an apparent attack on the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, Fadnavis said in Pune, “The party whose two former ministers are in jail on charges of corruption has no moral right to put out a list (of our ministers).” The NCP, the main opposition party, has put names of some ministers who took oath on Tuesday on social media and accused them of being involved in corruption.
Former NCP ministers Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik are currently in jail after being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in separate money laundering cases