Shiv Sena demands more front row seats in Maharashtra Assembly
Shiv Sena MLAs at the Maharashtra Assembly on Monday. (Source: Express photo by Pradeep Kochreka)
The Shiv Sena and BJP coalition conflict has taken a new turn with both sides asserting their rights for front row seats in the ongoing Maharashtra Assembly budget session.
At the end of first week of the session, Shiv Sena has expressed its disappointment to the BJP top leadership for denying their cabinet ministers front row seats. Now, to make more space for Sena ministers the BJP is likely to downsize Congress’ and NCP’s claim for the seats. Both parties may be asked to give up at least two seats in the front row.
The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Girish Bapat told Indian Express, “Yes, we will have to make space for Sena in front row. Now, we are going to make some corrections in the sitting arrangement in the state assembly in front row to give greater representation to the Shiv Sena ministers holding cabinet rank.”
Currently, there are eight BJP cabinet ministers, including Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who occupies the front row in the assembly.
The other BJP ministers in front row include Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, Public Works Department Minister Chandrakant Patil, Housing Minister Prakash Mehta, Social Justice and Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savara, Education Minister Vinod Tawde and Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde.
Whereas, Shiv Sena is represented by just two ministers — Transport Minister Diwakar Raote and Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam. Senior ministers such as Subash Desai and Deepak Sawant have been relegated to the back rows.
To end the dispute the BJP has offered Sena to accept a 2:1 formula, which was the base for formation of the cabinet in Maharashtra. The formula is based on the 2014 assembly results where BJP won 122 seats and Shiv Sena 63 seats. Accordingly, BJP has 20 ministers and Sena 10 ministers in the present cabinet. If there is further expansion post budget session, the upper limit would be 24 ministers for BJP and 12 ministers for Sena.
A Sena minister who voiced his displeasure for being dismissed as back bencher said, “If BJP retains eight ministers in front row, Sena deserves four seats.”
Interestingly, BJP which also is grappling with in-house egos is not in a mood to send any of its ministers to the second row. As a result, BJP political managers have found a way out to deal with the problems by asking NCP to vacate two seats on the front row in the Assembly.
In a candid admission, a NCP leader said, “At present those in the front seats are former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, leader of NCP in Assembly Jayant Patil, former minister Chhagan Bhujbal and former assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil. As per norms we cannot ask a former speaker and house leader to take backseat. But again it would be offending to ask senior leaders Pawar and Bhujbal to shift from front row.”
The Congress on its part also finds difficulty as senior former ministers like Patangrao Kadam, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, leader of the opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil will retain the front row. Now, they are wondering if they could ask a junior Vijay Waddetiwar to leave front seat.
Source:: Indian Express