Cautious that the new dispensation in Maharashtra would seem to be a government of the Marathas, by the Marathas, for the Marathas, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan made it a point after taking charge on Thursday to visit Chaityabhoomi, the Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial in Dadar.
Keen to send out the message that his government was not against the SCs/STs and OBCs, Chavan went to Chaityabhoomi. He is the first Maratha chief minister to do so.
Chavan’s act came in the wake of intense questioning over the dominance of Marathas in his government. Both Chavan and his deputy Ajit Pawar are Marathas — politically and socially the most powerful community in the state.
Mani Bhavan, where Mahatma Gandhi stayed whenever he visited the city, is now in vogue with US President Barack Obama visiting the place. Chavan, too, visited Mani Bhavan on Thursday. His visit, though, was not the first by a chief minister of Maharashtra.
Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde had visited Mani Bhavan, Meghshyam Ajgaonkar, executive secretary of Mani Bhavan, said.
The fact that intense lobbying is on within the Congress for berths and portfolios was evident when Chavan, who has the full backing of the Congress top brass, had no Congress politician sworn in with him.
The Congress’s alliance partner, the Nationalist Congress Party, too, did not miss out on the social balance, after Pawar was asked about it during a press conference on Wednesday.
Pawar had shot back at journalists, saying that the government would show how to strike a social balance. He kept his word as the party nominated non-Marathas Chhagan Bhujbal, Ganesh Naik, Sunil Tatkare and Jaidatt Kshirsagar (all OBCs), Lakshman Dhobale (SC), Vijaykumar Gavit (ST), and Manohar Naik (NT) as ministers to take the oath of office and secrecy with Chavan and Pawar.
Mindful of the perception that the NCP is dominated by Marathas, the leadership decided to assuage the sentiments of the OBCs by ensuring that Bhujbal (a Mali), Naik (an Agri), Tatkare (a Gawli), and Kshirsagar (a Teli) were inducted in the cabinet.