The Democratic Front government in Maharashtra today axed 22 ministers four Cabinet ministers and 18 ministers of state to bring the size of its council of ministers down to 43 one day ahead of the deadline set by the 97th amendment to the Constitution.
While effecting the downsizing, Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde also elevated five ministers of state to Cabinet rank, three from the Nationalist Congress Party and two from his own party, the Congress. They will take the oath of office tomorrow.
After much confabulation among the Congress and the NCP leaderships, Shinde carried out the "unpleasant task" a day ahead of the July 7 deadline. The 97th amendment stipulates that the size of a ministry cannot exceed 15 per cent of the strength of the lower House of the legislature concerned.
Two Cabinet ministers each were dropped from the Congress and the NCP. The ministers of state removed comprise six each from the Congress and the NCP and three independents each from the Congress and the NCP quota.
With this exercise, the number of Cabinet ministers has risen from 27 to 28 while the number of ministers of state has come down from 38 to 15.
The Cabinet ministers who have been dropped are: former chief minister Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar and Babasaheb Dhabekar (both Congress) and Dilip Valse-Patil and Digvijay Khanvilkar (both NCP).
The ministers of state who have been dropped are: Prashant Hire, Subhash Thakre, Rajesh Tope, Rajendra Shingne, Hemant Deshmukh, Ram Raje Nimbalkar (all NCP), and Balasaheb Thorat, Chandrakant Shivarkar, Bandu Sawarbandhe, Basavraj Patil, Chandrakant Chhajed and Manikrao Thakre (all Congress).
The independents who have been axed are Dharmarao Baba Atram, Digambar Bagal, Vinayakrao Jadhav Patil (made ministers from the NCP quota) and Ramdas Bodke, Sanjay Deshmukh, and Ajit Ghorpade (inducted from the Congress quota).
Those elevated to Cabinet rank are Vimal Mundada, Manohar Naik and Nawab Malik (all NCP) and Prakash Awade and Anees Ahmed (both Congress).
The reallocation of portfolios will be done in a day or two, Shinde said. Describing the downsizing exercise as a "painful experience", the chief minister claimed that all his ministers had done a good job. He said the Congress had not applied any criterion for removing party ministers and the list was decided in consultation with the party high command.
Deputy Chief Minister Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, however, said his party, the NCP, had removed only those ministers in whose constituencies the party fared badly in the May Lok Sabha election.
Asked whether the dropped ministers would be accommodated elsewhere, Shinde said, "We have not thought about it. But their experience can be used for the organisation."