Shinde calls in sick amid reports of Fadnavis visit to Delhi, MLAs sent back

As uncertainty over the cabinet expansion in Maharashtra continues, both Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday maintained a low-profile, with neither holding meetings with cabinet hopefuls and other MLAs.

Shinde fell ill due to overexertion on Thursday morning and doctors advised him to rest for a day. While he rested at his official residence Nandanvan and cancelled the day’s events, the MLAs who had turned up to meet the Chief Minister were asked to go back. They were advised to meet another senior rebel MLA, Uday Samant, at his official residence in front of Mantralaya.

Fadnavis also maintained a low profile on Thursday amid reports that he had travelled to Delhi to meet senior leaders of the party. However, sources in the deputy chief minister’s office dismissed the reports, saying Fadnavis was in Mumbai and did not travel to Delhi. But his office did not disclose his whereabouts.

On Wednesday evening, a large number of people, including MLAs and supporters of Shinde, had turned up at Sahyadri to meet the Chief Minister, who held the cabinet meeting there. The overcrowding even resulted in cancellation of a meeting to discuss Niti Aayog’s upcoming conference. The meeting was rescheduled for Thursday morning, but had to be cancelled again after Shinde fell ill.

“He did not meet anyone throughout the day. The events over the last two months and his continuous travel as well as workload resulted in overexertion, after which doctors advised a day’s rest,” said an official working with Shinde.

Deepak Kesarkar, spokesperson of the Sena’s Shinde camp, had earlier said that cabinet expansion could be held before Sunday. Sources within the government had hinted that the possible date for expansion of the state cabinet was August 5, almost 35 days after both Shinde and Fadnavis were sworn in. Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s office, however, said no such event has been planned.

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Koshyari will be in Mumbai on Friday but he will be travelling to Delhi on Saturday to attend a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “ I can’t predict the exact date of the cabinet expansion. But I can say it will happen before August 15.” Explaining further, he said, “ On August 15, guardian ministers have to hoist the flag in their respective districts. So, I am sure the cabinet expansion will take place before Independence Day.”

A senior BJP office-bearer said, “ If we hurry the cabinet expansion before court order, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena will challenge it in court. Instead, we should wait for greater clarity to avoid any legal complications ahead.”

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