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‘Unwell’ Ajit Pawar skips Delhi trip with CM, Devendra Fadnavis; but meets NCP men

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis left for New Delhi on Tuesday night with sources saying they were slated to meet BJP national president JP Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. However, the visit created a flutter in political circles as Deputy CM Ajit Pawar was not part of it.

Political observers said the visit comes ahead of talk that there may be another round of expansion of the state cabinet before the winter session of the state legislature. They said the CM and deputy CM may discuss the Maratha, Dhangar, and OBC reservation issues amid protests by the communities seeking quotas.

There was also speculation that the trip had come amid reports of unhappiness in the Shiv Sena and BJP with the Ajit Pawar-led NCP group’s interference in the running of the state government’s various departments held by the Shinde Sena or BJP.

Also read | Political parties likely to realign caste arithmetic after Bihar survey

Ajit Pawar didn’t attend the state cabinet meeting on Tuesday. However, CM Shinde said Ajit was unwell and no different meaning should be drawn from his absence. However, Ajit held a meeting of NCP ministers at Devgiri, his official residence, on Tuesday evening, giving rise to further speculation that he was unhappy.

NCP MP Supriya Sule alleged there was trouble within the alliance government. “It is being said that one of the parties in the three-engine government is upset and has met Fadnavis. The honeymoon period is not yet over and already they are upset,” she said.

An observer said, “Cabinet expansion was said to be on the cards, but the formula for the 14 remaining berths hasn’t been decided and there is no consensus. The BJP wants 10 berths and wants to give only 2 each to Ajit’s NCP and the Shinde Sena. However, the two parties want to have 4 berths each at least. There is also no consensus over the distribution of guardian ministers’ posts to cabinet ministers.”

Observers said there was pressure on Shinde-Fadnavis from the NCP to carry out cabinet expansion.

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