The swearing in of the new Congress-Nationalist Congress Party ministry in Maharashtra will take place on Saturday, with the end of the fortnight-long deadlock over government formation in the state, after the assembly elections brought the two parties to power for the third time in a row.
The Congress will have 23 ministers and the NCP 20. While all NCP ministers are expected to take oath on Saturday, the Congress ministers will take their oaths in two phases.
"We are going to form the new council of ministers on Saturday. We will be staking claim to form the government today evening," said a beaming Chief Minister Ashok Chavan after a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Chavan evaded all questions on who will be included in the new cabinet, despite queries about whether Rajendra Shekhawat, son of President Pratibha Patil, Mumbai regional Congress chief Kripa Shankar Singh and Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Manikrao Thakre will become ministers.
"I am not going to say who and how many will be taking oath tomorrow. Portfolios will be decided after swearing in," was his refrain to all such queries.
Chavan said 'this will be the 2009 formula' when asked whether the Congress has agreed to the NCP's demand for the continuation of 1999 formula of power sharing, under which it had secured key portfolios.
He, however, brushed aside questions about which ministries will be held by the Congress and the NCP, but made it clear that his party has not demanded either the Rural Development or Tribal Welfare ministries, as reported by the media.
"Cabinet formation was discussed with the Congress president, along with senior leaders Ahmed Patel and A K Antony. The proposal is under consideration. Perhaps we will get the final nod by the evening," Chavan said in reply to a volley of questions on the issue.
He refused to answer questions about which party will get the key post of the assembly Speaker. "Discussions are still on," he merely said.
In the previous assembly, the post was with the NCP.
Chavan was re-elected as the Congress Legislature Party leader soon after the elections. Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal was elected as the NCP Legislature Party leader.
In the assembly polls, the Congress secured 82 seats while the NCP bagged 62 seats in the 288-member House.
In the mainly four-cornered Assembly polls, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Third Front also tried to make inroads.
While the details of the 2009 power sharing formula are not known, the NCP is expected to retain then key portfolios of Home, Finance, Power and PWD.
As government formation was delayed after the declaration of results on October 22, due to hard negotiations between the two parties over portfolio-sharing, Governor S C Jamir had recently urged both parties to show a sense of urgency in forming the government.