NCP to introduce fresh faces in Maharashtra cabinet

In an exercise apparently aimed at its image makeover ahead of the 2014 elections, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Saturday indicated that new faces will also figure in the impending reshuffle of party ministers in the Maharashtra government.

Senior NCP leader and Union Minister Praful Patel told reporters that the state unit president Madhukar Pichad will be inducted as a minister and a new leader will fill in his organisational post.

“Maharashtra NCP will have a new president and the incumbent Madhukar Pichad will find a place in the state ministry from the NCP quota...The state unit will have a new leader soon,” Patel said, adding, new faces will also be inducted.

Pichad was the tribal affairs minister during the first term of the Congress-led Vilasrao Deshmukh (now deceased) government.

Patel was addressing reporters here, a day after all 20 ministers of NCP—the alliance partner of Congress since 1999—including heavyweights like Ajit Pawar, R R Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal, put in their papers apparently on the directions of the party president Sharad Pawar.

The move which rattled NCP circles is reportedly aimed at repairing the party’s image which took a beating in recent past with the names of a few ministers like Chhagan Bhujbal, Ajit Pawar, Gulabrao Deokar, Vijaykumar Gavit cropping up in connection with various scams. Patel also hinted that state Assembly Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil could also be accommodated in the new pecking order of ministers which is being put in place by senior Pawar.

“Persons occupying legislative Assembly Speaker’s post can be inducted into the ministry,” he said responding to a query. When asked about the NCP’s demand for convening a co-ordination committee meeting with Congress, Patel said that the “co-ordination between two parties has been very good”.

“Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is in constant touch with Sharad Pawar, me and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on various issues. Hence, there is no need for a separate meeting. Government has done well in drought mitigation,” the heavy industries minister said.

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