Take home finance, give us chief minister's post: NCP

Jul 16, 2011

Barely 48 hours after serial bomb blasts rocked Mumbai, Congress and the NCP are at loggerheads over portfolio allocations.

To a comment from chief minister Prithviraj Chavan that it was a mistake not to keep the home, finance and planning portfolios with the CM, the NCP top leadership asked for a swap: Home and finance for the CM’s post!

Chavan later retracted his statement and said that he had been quoted out of context.

“We are ready to swap, provided the Congress is willing to part with the chief minister’s post inclusive of ministry of urban development and housing. In the bargain we are willing to hand over home, finance and planning,” the NCP said. Earlier, Chavan told TV channels, “I think it was a mistake. We should have re-looked at it. I don’t know of any other coalition government where the portfolios of home, finance and planning are not with the chief minister.”

He qualified this with: “This was a division agreed to by us in 1999 when Congress-NCP first came to power in the state. That pattern was based on the model adopted by the Shiv Sena-BJP government during 1995-99.”

The NCP said it was a veiled attack against its cabinet ministers and also a comment on their “underperformance”. Congress political managers swung into damage control, stating that Chavan was just putting facts into perspective, not implying any changes in the portfolio share nor commenting on the home minister’s performance.

“First of all I would like to assert that the chief minister is the head of the government. Every decision related to any portfolio put forth in the cabinet requires his consent. Secondly, he has powers to take any decision related to any department,” state NCP president Madhukar Picchad said. “The division of portfolio was mutually taken by high commands of the Congress and the NCP in 1999. By questioning the decision is the chief minister trying to suggest the top leaders made a mistake?”

A senior state cabinet minister (NCP) said, “Padmasinh Patil held the home portfolio when Sharad Pawar was the chief minister of state.”

During the Shiv Sena and BJP government (1995-199), chief minister was Manohar Joshi who retained urban development and Gopinath Munde was home minister. Later, Narayan Rane was the chief minister and Munde retained the home portfolio. The minister further said, “Chavan who has worked in centre should understand that home ministry is held by PC Chidambaram and not prime minister Manmohan Singh.”

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar (NCP) sought to put an end to the controversy stating that this was not the time to fight over portfolios.

After the 2009 state assembly elections the then chief minister Ashok Chavan had suggested that ministry of home should be handed to Congress. He said the CM should be incharge of home affairs.

Top NCP central leaders dismissed the suggestion. They indicated that if Congress insisted on home they would not entertain any discussions on government formation.