Akhilesh Yadav-led SP Government in UP on Thursday inducted 12 ministers, including Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pundit Singh, who was dropped from the ministry for his alleged involvement in an abduction case.
In his first Cabinet expansion, Akhilesh has included four ministers facing criminal charges. Besides Vinod, the other tainted ministers are Manoj Pandey, Ram Murthy Verma and Yogesh Kumar Singh. Akhilesh had dropped Vinod as he allegedly beaten up and threatened Gonda chief medical officer for “daring not to appoint his aides”.
The expansion is being described as the SP’s move to consolidate its position in various social and caste groups before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Chief Minister kept away the Yadav and Muslim MLAs and gave preference to the Brahmins, Thakurs and the OBCs. Out of 12 ministers, five are OBCs, three Brahmins, two Rajputs and one each from the Jat and Vaishaya community. The elevation of BJP leader Rajnath Singh to the party’s highest position has compelled SP leadership to redraw its strategy for wooing the Brahmins and Rajputs from the BJP camp.
Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary has been elevated as a cabinet minister and son of the party’s Rajya Sabha Member, Naresh Agarwal has been made minister of state. Agarwal had joined SP quitting the BSP just before the 2012 Assembly elections. The others who find their names in Thursday’s expansion are Pawan Pandey, Vijay Mishra, Ram Shakal Gujar, Gayatria Prajapati, Vijay Bahadur Pal and Alok Shakya.
Later, while speaking to the mediapersons, the Chief Minister defended his aides by saying that “no one is a criminal until proved guilty by the court. Inquiries are being carried out”. The swearing-in ceremony was held at Raj Bhawan at 12.30 pm. Governor B L Joshi, Akhilesh, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav were present.