CM Yogi Adityanath expands Uttar Pradesh Cabinet ahead of 2022 polls

Express News Service

LUCKNOW: Just five months ahead of crucial electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday evening expanded his cabinet for the second time in his 4.5 years of tenure.

The new cabinet saw seven new ministers taking oath, including one cabinet and six ministers of state. With this expansion, Yogi’s ‘pack of 60’ is now complete.

The inductees, keeping the poll math in mind, namely are — Jitin Prasada, Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, Paltu Ram, Sangeeta Balwant Bind, Sanjeev Kumar Gond, Dinesh Khatik, and Dharmaveer Singh Prajapati.

AK Sharma, PM Narendra Modi’s trusted bureaucrat who had taken voluntary retirement as MSME secretary in Delhi and joined the BJP in Lucknow in Janaury this year, failed to make it to the Yogi cabinet. However, speculations about the possible induction of the ex-IAS officer who has been made MLC in UP, were rife. Sharma was entrusted with organisational responsibility when appointed vice-president of UP BJP in June, this year.

However, the Sunday expansion is been seen as an exercise by the ruling party to balance various caste equations in the cabinet. Significantly, the Yogi government did not touch any of the sitting ministers to make space for the new ones.

However, through expansion of Yogi cabinet, the ruling BJP has tried to continue its OBC and scheduled caste (SC) outreach agenda by inducting three OBCs and two SC among seven ministers sworn in on Sunday evening at Raj Bhawan.

Congress senior and prominent leader Jitin Prasada, a Brahmin, who had joined the BJP in June, this year, was the only one to be sworn-in as the cabinet minister in Yogi government. Rest six took the oath of the office of minister of state.

As per the poltical pundits, Jitin Prasada got the cabinet rank to placate the allegedly sulking Brahmins in the state.

The pack of seven newly inducted ministers shows that the BJP has worked out the expansion minutely as it has given space even to its only Scheduled Tribe (ST) MLA Sandeep Kumar Gond from Sonebhadra.

However, most of the new inductees belong to the castes that had no or very less represention in the state government.

Moreover, two SC MLAs – Paltu Ram, MLA from Balrampur and Dinesh Khatik, MLA from Hastinapur – have been inducted into Yogi cabinet. While Palturam belongs to Jatav community , Khatik is a Sonker by caste.

On the other, the party has continued with its OBC outreach strategy by inducting three ministers — Dharmveer Prajapati, Chhatrapal Gangawar and SangeetaBalwant Bind.

Chhatrapal Gangwar, a Kurmi by caste, was sworn in as Minister of State. He is MLA from Baheri constituency in Bareilly parliamentary segment. Gangwar’s elevation is being seen as a replacement to Santosh Gangwar, an 8-time MP from Bareilly, who was dropped from Modi cabinet recently.

Similarly, Ghazipur MLA  Sangeeta Balwant Bind’s elevation as minister of state in Yogi Cabinet is also being seen as BJP’s bid to create its own Nishad leadership even after having forged an alliance with NISHAD party, led by Dr Sanjay Nishad.

So far Yogi cabinet has 23 cabinet ministers, nine Ministers with Independent charge and 21 ministers of state taking the number to 53. The first expansion of the UP cabinet was done in August 2019.