Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday inducted Jitin Prasada and six others into his Council of Ministers, attempting to balance caste and regional aspirations ahead of the Assembly polls early next year.
Prasada, who had recently crossed over to the BJP from the Congress, took oath as cabinet minister, while six others were sworn in as Ministers of State.
Governor Anandiben Patel administered oath to the new ministers at the Gandhi Auditorium in the Raj Bhawan in the presence of the chief minister.
With the latest inductions, the constitutional limit of having a maximum of 60 ministers in the state has been reached.
Lucknow: Governor Anandi Ben Patel administers oath of the office to Minister of State Dharamveer Prajapati pic.twitter.com/7fSuNzJz6j
" ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) September 26, 2021
Those inducted as Ministers of State are Palturam, Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, Sangeeta Balwant, Dharamveer Singh, Sanjeev Kumar and Dinesh Khatik. Among the new ministers, Prasada is the lone Brahmin face, while Dinesh Khatik and Palturam are Scheduled Castes and Sanjeev Kumar is Scheduled Tribe.
Lucknow: BJP MLAs Palturam, Sangeeta Balwant, Sanjeev Kumar, and Dinesh Khatik take oath as ministers of state (MoS) in the Uttar Pradesh Govt pic.twitter.com/4JlLAvponc " ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) September 26, 2021
Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar (Kurmi), Sangeeta Balwant (Bind) and Dharamveer Singh (Prajapati) are from backward castes. Former Union minister Prasada, who hails from Shahjahanpur, is all set to become a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council with the UP government sending his name to UP Governor for approval, an official said.
Prasada's entry is meant to help the BJP reset the optics of the Yogi Adityanath government, perceived by a section of state's Brahmins as being pro-Thakur (the Chief Minister's caste). Brahmins make up about 13 percent of UP's voters and are an influential chunk that has steadily gravitated from Congress towards the BJP over the years.
Besides him, the names of Sanjay Nishad, who heads NISHAD (Nirbal Indian Shosit Hamara Aam Dal) party, Chaudhary Virendra Singh Gujjar and Gopal Anjan Bhurji have been recommended as nominated members of the Legislative Council, the official added. It is believed that Prasada's induction was part of the party's efforts to woo the Brahmin community.
Asked about it in a recent interview to PTI, Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma said that Prasada wanted to join the party way back inspired by the work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sangeet Balwant is the MLA from Ghazipur, Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar from Baheri in Bareilly district, Palturam from Balrampur, Dinesh Khatik from Hastinapur and Sanjeev Kumar is the MLA from Obra in Sonbhadra district.
Dharamveer Singh is a member of the Legislative Council and hails from Agra. This is the second expansion of the Council of Ministers headed by Adityanath. The first expansion took place in August 2019.
Before Sunday's expansion, there were 23 Cabinet ministers, including the chief minister, nine Ministers of State (independent charge) and 21 Ministers of State. The maximum strength of the cabinet can be 15 percent of the total strength of the Assembly. The Uttar Pradesh Assembly has 403 seats.
This is the first time that Uttar Pradesh has had such a large representation in the central government. This has partly been explained by the overwhelming support BJP got in the 2019 general elections. But a lot of water has flown under the bridge between then and now.
In the 2017 UP Assembly elections, the BJP won 312 seats. Its ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) won nine seats. The Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) had contested the 2017 Assembly polls in alliance with the BJP and won four seats, but later walked out of the alliance in 2019.
Recently Sanjay Nishad was in the news for his demand that the BJP should project him as a deputy chief minister face in the elections. He claimed that Nishads (fishermen) constitute about 18 percent of the electorate and play a deciding role in 160 Assembly seats. The Nishad Party had contested the 2017 Assembly elections in alliance with the Peace Party led by Dr Ayub and contested 72 seats. Its candidate Vijay Mishra had won from Gyanpur seat in Bhadohi district. On Friday, Union minister and BJP's in charge for UP Dharmendra Pradhan had announced a tie-up with the NISHAD party for the 2022 Assembly election.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party entered into an alliance with the BJP and Sanjay Nishad's son Praveen Nishad was nominated from Sant Kabir Nagar from where he won the elections. The Sunday cabinet expansion comes close on the heels of induction of seven ministers from Uttar Pradesh in the Union Council of Ministers in July with an eye on next year's assembly polls in the state.
All seven took oath of office and secrecy as Ministers of State. Of the seven newly inducted ministers from UP, Anupriya Patel heads the Apna Dal (Sonelal) and was a minister in the first Narendra Modi government. The rest are from the BJP.
Anupriya Patel, Pankaj Choudhary and B L Verma are from Other Backward Classes, which BJP leaders in UP say make up 50 percent of voters in the state. Three others, Kaushal Kishore, Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma and S P Singh Baghel, are from the Scheduled Caste category.
Ajay Kumar was the lone Brahmin in this batch of ministers from the state. Barring Rajya Sabha MP BL Verma, the new ministers are Lok Sabha members.
The 2022 UP election is widely seen as test of the BJP's appeal at the state level, after relatively poor performances in other state polls. Earlier this year, the BJP retained power in Assam but failed to make headway against Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, won zero seats in Kerala and lost in Tamil Nadu.