Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday dismissed eight ministers and divested nine others of their portfolios to go to the 2017 assembly polls with a new-look ministry and trash the nagging taunt of “father and uncles” running his show.
The ministerial revamp scheduled for October 31, with a distinct Akhilesh stamp, is seen as a Samajwadi Party cleaning exercise as the poll battleground is set to shift from Bihar to UP, where the BJP pulverised the ruling party in the 2014 Lok Sabha election by winning 71 seats.
The perception is that the Bihar outcome, to be out on November 8, will bear down on UP as the BJP will go all out to retain its 2014 feat.
The clean-up was on the way as SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav had publicly upbraided son Akhilesh for poor governance and warned non-performing ministers.
Mulayam’s moves cleared the way for the son to crack the whip, especially on ministers belonging to the old guard and considered close to his father. There were also allegations that some ministers were secretly slanting towards the BJP.
A chunk of his axed colleagues is facing charges of corruption and non-performance, but Akhilesh could find it difficult to justify his decision to cling to some controversial ministers.
The BJP accused the government of “going soft” on cabinet ministers Azam Khan and Gayatri Prajapati while state Congress chief Nirmal Khatri alleged that the “corrupt were still within the government”.
“If the reshuffle is a clean-up exercise then why no action was taken against Prajapati who faces serious charges of corruption?” asked state BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai, who also accused Khan of “vitiating” the state’s communal atmosphere.
Akhilesh has been carrying out minor reshuffles, but the next revamp will be the biggest as it is aimed at giving himself as well as his government an image makeover.
It gives him the opportunity to shake off canards that have been shadowing him since he took over from his father in 2012 — that the state got a “young CM with an old cabinet” and “father and uncles” run the show.
It’s likely that most of his new ministers will be young and he wants to give them time to settle down and perform. Also, the revamp will demand balancing caste equations in a young council of ministers.
As of now, portfolios of dismissed ministers and of those divested of charge will remain with the chief minister.