Wednesday, 29 October 2014

BJP debates including Muslim minister in first Maha cabinet

Mumbai: Even as the lobbying over getting plum cabinet portfolios continues in the Maharashtra BJP, it remains uncertain whether the first BJP government in Maharashtra will include a Muslim minister in the cabinet.
While the Chief Minister designate Devendra Fadnavis is likely to keep the urban development portfolio with him, other BJP leaders are eyeing the home, finance, revenue and other major portfolios. Sources told Firstpost that former BJP state president Sudhir Mungantiwar may be given the home portfolio and senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde, who is also eyeing the home ministry portfolio, may be entrusted finance instead.
However, it is not yet clear that who will head the minority affairs department or whether it will have Muslim representation. Sources in the BJP said that it had fielded two Muslim candidates in the assembly election but both lost the polls.
Representational image. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost
Representational image. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost
Syed Pasha Patel, a farmer leader and associate of BJP stalwart late Gopinath Munde, was among the two Muslim candidates fielded by the party in Maharashtra. Patel is the only Muslim leader in the BJP who has a statewide presence, even in the rural areas of the state.
Many in the BJP say that Patel may get the minority affairs portfolio but his chances have diminished after he lost the assembly polls. “Still his name is being considered for the portfolio. Also, a possibility of giving the minority affairs portfolio to the Jain community, which has got the minority community status earlier in this year, cannot be ruled out," said a BJP leader.
Another BJP leader said that nothing has been finalized yet.
Sayyed Aasif Ali, a social activist from Malegaon, speaking to Firstpost, said he hoped that the new BJP government would have the Muslim community’s representation, "But, so far, we haven’t heard any name being considered."
He pointed out that there were three Muslim ministers in the last Congress-NCP government. The three ministers were Arif Naseem Khan, who held the minority affairs portfolio, Hasan Mushrif and Fouzia Khan.
Muslims constitute 10.6 percent of the state’s population and play a significant role in about 40 of total 288 assembly constituencies in the state.
“The chief minister designate Devendra Fadanvis can only take a call on it. It is his prerogative,” said Madhav Bhandari, chief spokesman of Maharashtra BJP.
Meanwhile, Central leaders have reportedly promised the revenue department to Eknath Khadse, senior BJP leader and former opposition leader in assembly. BJP MLA Pankaja Munde, the party’s OBC face, is likely to be given women and child development or rural development while Ashish Shelar may get public works department.