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Rane supporter in Cabinet

Special Correspondent

Congress brings back Surupsingh Naik to attract Adivasi votes

— Photo: PTI/ Shirish Shete

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan being greeted by Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal (left) during the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Mumbai on Monday.

MUMBAI: The new Maharashtra Cabinet has eight new faces, including Congress MLA Vijay Vadettiwar, who is close to the suspended party leader Narayan Rane, apart from veterans such as Surupsingh Naik from the Adivasi area of Nandurbar. The portfolios will be decided by Tuesday.

The Congress has included Shobha Bacchav, who will be the second woman in the Cabinet, apart from Vimal Mundada of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The Congress has played it safe, bringing back Mr. Naik to attract Adivasi votes after it lost the recent zilla parishad and panchayat samiti elections in Nandurbar to the NCP.

Ashok Chavan became the 24th Chief Minister of Maharashtra on Monday. The NCP’s Chhagan Bhujbal was sworn in Deputy Chief Minister. Governor S.C. Jamir administered the oath of office to Mr Chavan and his council of ministers at the Raj Bhavan.

39 in new team

The new team has 39 members — one more than the Cabinet under Vilasrao Deshmukh. The NCP has 17 Cabinet Ministers and seven Ministers of State, while the Congress has nine Cabinet Ministers and six Ministers of State.

Speaking to journalists after the swearing-in, Mr Chavan said four berths were vacant and the Cabinet might be expanded after the winter session of the legislature, expected to begin on December 15.

Mr Chavan clarified that Mr. Wadettiwar was elected on party ticket and he owed his allegiance to his party and not to any individual. However, sources in the party said his induction was to wean away Wadettiwar from the Rane camp.

Apart from Mr. Naik, Dr Bachchav and Mr. Vadettiwar, the Congress has included Nitin Raut, MLA from Nagpur, and Madan Patil. In May 2006, Mr. Naik, then Transport Minister who was convicted by the Supreme Court and sentenced to one-month imprisonment for contempt, surrendered to the police after his petition for leniency was rejected. Mr. Naik and Additional Chief Secretary Ashok Khot had violated a 1997 court order asking them to close down six sawmills in reserve forests.

Ministers dropped

Two Congress Ministers in the earlier Cabinet, Minister of State for Labour Baba Siddiqui and Textiles Minister Satish Chaturvedi, were dropped and a third, Ravisheth Patil, has been elevated to the Cabinet rank. Minister for Education Vasant Purke and Minister of State Ranjit Kamble have also found no berth.

The NCP elevated Rajesh Tope and Rajendra Shingne to the Cabinet rank and included Nawab Malik and Ramesh Bang as Cabinet Ministers. Labour Minister Malik resigned from the earlier Cabinet in 2005 after he was indicted by the P.B. Sawant Commission, which probed corruption charges and misuse of office against four NCP Ministers.

While the NCP’s Anil Deshmukh was dropped, Suresh Varpudkar, Nana Panchbuddhe and Satish Patil are the new Ministers of State.

There are 24 Cabinet Ministers and 13 Ministers of State.

Corrections and Clarifications:

The last paragraph of a report "Rane supporter in [Maharashtra] Cabinet" (December 9, 2008) said that there are 24 Cabin* et Ministers and 13 Ministers of State. It should have been 26 cabinet ministers, as mentioned in the fifth paragraph.

In "Corrections and Clarifications" (December 10, 2008) and with reference to a report "Rane supporter in [Maharashtra] cabinet, we had said that the figure "24 Cabinet Ministers" given in the last paragraph should have been 26 cabinet ministers, as mentioned earlier in the report. The Mumbai Bureau clarifies that the figure "24 Cabinet Ministers" was excluding the Chief Minister and the Deputy CM.

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