Asked about the non-representation of women in Maharashtra's expanded Cabinet, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said female legislators will be sure to be inducted in the ministry in the next expansion.
Sixty-one days after taking office, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde expanded his cabinet by inducting 18 new members -- nine each of the rebel Shiv Sena group and the BJP -- but no woman legislator found a place in his team, inviting criticism from opposition parties and activists. The Shinde ministry's strength went up to 20 with the expansion.
Fadnavis said in Mumbai: There will be women in the next cabinet expansion for sure. Earlier, people were critical of us for the delay in cabinet expansion, but now they have come up with something new. When Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray took oath in November 2019 there was not a single woman cabinet minister in it. The Bharatiya Janata Party BJP leader said that nobody had criticized that government.
Thackeray was sworn in as chief minister in November 2019 along with five ministers from the NCP and the Congress. The women were later inducted into the Council of Ministers.
Fadnavis said Chief Minister Shinde had already clarified the stand on it and there was no need for further comment when asked about the induction of rebel Sena MLA Sanjay Rathod in the new cabinet.
Rathod, who was the forest minister in the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi MVA government, was forced to resign last year after BJP leaders blamed him for a woman's suicide in Pune.
Shinde, speaking to reporters earlier, said that the MVA government had given a 'clean chit' to Rathod and that his name was considered for a Cabinet position this time.
In an apparent attack on the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, Fadnavis said in Pune: 'The party whose two former ministers are in jail on charges of corruption has no moral right to put out a list of ministers. The NCP, the main opposition party, has put names of some ministers who have taken oath on Tuesday and accused them of being involved in corruption.
Former NCP ministers Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik are currently in jail after being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in separate money laundering cases.