Almost a month after he was sworn in, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is all set to go in for a reshuffle next week. However, it is going to be a tightrope walk for him as he has to maintain equilibrium between three parties and five regions.
According to reports in Shiv Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana', the expansion of the council of ministers of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government would come into effect on December 30.
The maximum ministerial strength in Maharashtra could be 42 including the post of the Chief Minister.
Thackeray, the unanimous leader of the MVA, leads the government comprising Shiv Sena, NCP, Congress, and smaller allies, and he along with six ministers, two each from the three parties, was sworn in at the Shivaji Park on November 28.
Uddhav (59) is in constant touch with NCP president Sharad Pawar on the expansion plans.
On Monday evening, Thackeray and Pawar met for over one-and-a-half hours at the Sahyadri guest house to give final touches to the ministerial expansion.
While it is almost certain that NCP leader Ajit Pawar would be the Deputy Chief Minister, the big issue is how two former CMs -- Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Chavan -- would be adjusted.
Prithviraj Chavan could be the new Maharashtra Congress president, but there are no confirmed reports.
Besides, Uddhav would also have to strike a balance as far as representation of the regions of Mumbai-Konkan, Western Maharashtra, Khandesh-North Maharashtra, Marathwada, and Vidarbha are concerned. He would also have to give a mix of all castes and give representation to women.
As part of the expansion, 13 ministers - 10 of Cabinet rank and three Ministers of State, each from Shiv Sena and NCP and 10 from Congress, eight Cabinet and three Ministers of State would be sworn in.
Congress already has got the post of the Speaker of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.
In Mumbai, Pawar chaired a meeting of senior leaders at his home on Monday while some Congress leaders were in New Delhi for consultations.
The six ministers in the Thackeray-government are Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai (Shiv Sena), Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal (NCP) and Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut (Congress).
From Shiv Sena, the possible ministers are Diwakar Raote, Deepak Kesarkar, Sunil Prabhu, Dada Bhuse, Abdul Sattar, Uday Sawant, Tanaji Sawant, Ravindra Waikar. Uddhav's son Aaditya could be a junior minister.
From NCP, the frontrunners are Ajit Pawar, Dilip Walse-Patil, Aditi Tarkare, Hasan Mushrif, Anil Deshmukh, Nawab Malik and Jitendra Awhad.
From the Congress side, Balasaheb Thorat, Vijay Wadettiwar, Varsha Gaikwad, Vishwajeet Kadam, Nitin Raut, Satej Patil, Yashomati Thakur, KC Padvi, Pranati Shinde and Amit Deshmukh are in the race.
On December 12, ahead of the winter session, the portfolios were distributed.
As far as portfolio allocation was concerned, the Shiv Sena got Home, Urban Development, Environment, Water Supply and Sanitation, Soil and Water Conservation, Tourism, Public Works (Public Enterprises), Parliamentary Affairs, Ex-Servicemen Welfare, Industries, Mining, Higher & Technical Education, Sports & Youth Affairs, Agriculture, Employment Guarantee Scheme, Horticulture, Transport, Marathi Language, Cultural Affairs, Protocol, Earthquake Rehabilitation, Ports and Salt Land Development.
The NCP got the portfolios of Rural Development, Water Resources and Command Area Development, Social Justice and Special Assistance, State Excise, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Food and Drug Administration, Finance and Planning, Housing, Public Health, Cooperation and Marketing, Food and Civil Supplies, Consumer Protection, Labour and Minorities Development.
Congress has been allocated Revenue, Energy, Non-Conventional Energy, Medical Education, School Education, Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries, Public Works (excluding Public Undertakings), Tribal Development, Women and Child Development, Textiles, Relief and Rehabilitation, Other Backward Classes, Social and Educational Backward Classes, Notified Tribes, Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes Welfare.