Mumbai: Amid talks of a possible expansion of the Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet in Maharashtra, BJP president Amit Shah arrived here Tuesday evening and called a meeting of party leaders. Shah was holding the meeting with a handful of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders at a hall in suburban Vile-Parle, a senior party official said.
Details of the meeting were not available as it was still going on. However, Chief Minister Fadnavis and state BJP president Raosaheb Danve were not attending it, the official said. Several senior leaders were not called to the meeting, he added.
“It clearly means Shah is not here to review party-level functioning or seek updates on tasks given to the office-bearers. “Some of the senior party officials are out of Mumbai and none of them was informed or invited to this meeting,” the BJP official said.
“Very few senior leaders were aware of Shah’s visit to Mumbai. Fadnavis already held a meeting with Shah in Delhi a couple of days ago. Danve was also present at the meeting in Delhi,” said another BJP official.
Asked about a possible cabinet expansion, he said, “Just a year is left and one cannot take key decisions for a period of at least four-five months, because the Model Code of Conduct will kick in for the Lok Sabha polls and then the Assembly election (in the second half of 2019). “Do not know if such an expansion will be helpful for the party’s plans to score better in both the elections.” Fadnavis is heading the BJP-led government, in which the Shiv Sena is a key partner, since October, 2014.
There have been talks of a possible expansion of the state Council of Ministers for the last few months. The number of ministers in Maharashtra cannot exceed 42 (as per the constitutional upper limit of 15 per cent of the number of MLAs) and the current strength of the ministry is 39.
A vacancy arose when Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar of the BJP died in May. His portfolio is now being handled by PWD and Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil. The meeting may also discuss the upcoming convention of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) working committee, scheduled from November 26 in adjoining Palghar district, the official said. It is the only RSS event which senior BJP leaders officially attend.