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Maharshtra Cabinet expamsion today, Shiv Sena to join Fadnavis-led BJP govt

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Mumbai: A day after Shiv Sena decided to “patch up” with former ally and join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is all set to carry out a cabinet expansion on Friday, ahead of the crucial Winter Session which is scheduled to begin in Nagpur on December 8. This is the first instance in Maharashtra where an opposition party is going to join the ruling party in an alliance government. The cabinet expansion ceremony of the 34-day-old Devendra Fadnavis-led ministry in Maharashtra will be held at Vidhan Bhawan today afternoon. Soon after the ministry expansion, Shiv Sena will formally become part of the BJP-led state government. Thus, Fadnavis government will no longer be in minority in the state assembly and will have a strength of 184 in the 287-member Assembly (one BJP legislator died soon after the poll results were announced in October). The BJP has a strength of 121 legislators and the Shiv Sena 63. According to the new arrangement, the Shiv Sena will get five berths of cabinet ministers and seven of ministers of state, CM Devendra Fadnavis said, yesterday, at a joint media address by top leaders of the two parties here. “Nothing has been decided about the portfolios. The names and the portfolios distribution will be decided by Friday morning,” Fadnavis had announced in Mumbai. Not just Sena’s participation in the government but overall alliance between BJP and Shiv Sena seems to have been revived as Fadnavis also announced the formation of a co-ordination committee which will decide how to co-operate in the upcoming municipal elections in Maharashtra. Hoping that the Shiv Sena will sooner or later join the government, BJP had kept a sizeable berths vacant, which will now include twelve Sena ministers and another 8-10 ministers from the BJP soon after the cabinet expansion procedure is over. On the other hand, Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai had said that the two parties had decided to come together again and run a stable government in the state as per the mandate of the people. However, Shiv Sena will not get the post of deputy chief minister since CM had announced that there will be no such post in his government. Notably, in the first BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government in 1995-99, the Sena held the post of chief minister and the BJP had the deputy chief minister’s post. The two parties – allies for 25 years – split on September 25 after a bitter spat and fought the assembly elections separately. “The people voted against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (alliance). Our decision has been taken respecting the public sentiments in this context, and we have decided to form the alliance government,” Fadnavis said, putting the lid on over two months of speculation whether the two parties would unite. Desai added: “We will strive to provide a good government and are confident that we will live up to the people’s mandate.” According to reports, the expansion will bring relief to the government as it readies for its first full-fledged winter session of the legislature that starts Monday in Nagpur, the state’s second capital. Another expansion is also likely on cards after the Winter Session in Nagpur. A decision on including other smaller alliance partners in the cabinet would be taken in due course, Fadnavis said. Political analysts say the Shiv Sena’s decision was prompted largely by apprehensions that the party could split if it continued in the opposition, with the splinter group joining the BJP. Thursday’s development took place after over two months of aggressive positions by leaders from both sides even as back-channel talks continued quietly. (With Agency inputs)

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