Maharashtra: CM Eknath Shinde alters administrative process, sparks talk of internal strife
According to the regulations, the cabinet proposals and notes that receive the finance minister's approval typically move directly to the chief minister's office. The finance portfolio is held by Ajit Pawar himself.
Amidst growing indications of a rift within the state's leadership, a shift in protocol has emerged between Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. CM Shinde has issued a directive stipulating that cabinet notes and proposals approved by the finance minister must first be routed to Deputy Chief Minister (Home) Devendra Fadnavis before reaching his desk for final approval.
Under established regulations, cabinet proposals and notes that receive the finance minister's approval typically move directly to the chief minister's office. Notably, the finance portfolio is held by Ajit Pawar himself.
On July 26, Chief Secretary Manoj Saunik issued an order implementing this new directive, contravening the customary process wherein cabinet matters are channeled from the department secretary to the chief secretary, then to the relevant department's minister, followed by the finance minister, and ultimately to the chief minister for approval.
This alteration in the administrative process has sparked internal concerns, particularly among Chief Minister Shinde's party members. The presence of Deputy Chief Minister Pawar in the cabinet has led to a decrease in their perceived influence within the government, a development that has left many of Shinde's MLAs and MLCs dissatisfied due to its potential implications on their bargaining power.
The BJP's recent actions appeared to be a strategic move aimed at exerting control over Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's administration. With the inclusion of Ajit Pawar in the cabinet, the prospects of Shinde's loyalists securing additional cabinet positions diminished significantly. Speculations began circulating, suggesting that Pawar might eventually replace Shinde as the Chief Minister, but these speculations were swiftly quashed.
In August, tensions between Pawar and Shinde heightened when Pawar assumed responsibility for reviewing infrastructure projects, a role traditionally overseen by Shinde's war room. Pawar established a parallel entity called the Project Monitoring Unit (PMU), although he later denied any underlying rivalry with Shinde. Pawar emphasized that the PMU was intended to complement the war room's efforts and repeatedly clarified that he had no ambitions of assuming the role of Chief Minister.
In July, controversies erupted regarding fund allocations in the supplementary budget demands presented in the assembly by Pawar. This development triggered dissatisfaction among both opposition legislators and members from the Shinde-led camp and the BJP, further contributing to the strain within the government.