The 40 days that it took for chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to deliver cabinet expansion to Maharashtra suggest how thorny their balancing act has been. That the 18 ministers sworn in today include nine each from the two camps, despite the Shinde faction of Shiv Sena only having 50 members as compared to BJP’s 106, counts for a win for him.

Many were surprised when he was named chief minister in the first place, instead of Fadnavis. And now this is another show of strength. It is true that he has a harder task keeping his flock in line compared to BJP, where party discipline prevails. Almost all the 50 legislators from his camp have reportedly jostled for induction into the cabinet.

Still as far as the contest with Uddhav Thackeray over the Shiv Sena rank and file and shakhas is concerned, Shinde now has additional muscle. It remains to be seen whether his camp has won some of the weightier portfolios as well. From the point of view of Maharashtrian aam admi and aurat the more important thing is whether the two camps are able to run the government in tandem – or go the way of Bihar where BJP and JD(U) leaderships seemed to spend more time undercutting each other than the opposition.

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