A day after the Opposition slammed the state government for granting quasi-judicial powers held by cabinet ministers to bureaucrats, deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday claimed that “rights” were given to secretaries even in the past. He, though, assured that cabinet expansion will take place in Maharashtra soon.

State Chief Secretary Manu Kumar Shrivastava on Friday issued an order that granted quasi-judicial powers to bureaucrats, prompting criticism from Opposition leaders. “Such criticism is nothing but political blame-game. Secretaries are only given rights to conduct hearings of quasi-judicial matters. There is nothing new in this. Similar rights were given to secretaries in the previous government as well, and the one before that,” said Fadnavis, adding that the practice has been around “even in different states”.

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On allegations that the administration in Maharashtra was being handed over to the bureaucracy, he said, “This government belongs to the people of Maharashtra and is currently being run by those (who have been) elected by people, and not by secretaries. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is heading the government and I am supporting him as a cabinet minister. This is the government of the people and will remain so.”

On reasons behind the state government’s orders issued on Friday, sources said the delay in expansion of the cabinet had held up several important matters, including hearings, in different departments.

The orders, issued in an attempt to ensure that people don’t suffer due to the delay in cabinet expansion, would mean that now secretaries could hold hearings in matters that are usually taken up by ministers.Congress’ chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said that a state like Maharashtra should not be run by secretaries.

On Saturday, the CMO Office issued a statement saying no powers of cabinet ministers have been given to bureaucrats and that only quasi-judicial matters will be heard by them.

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