Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is set to induct three new faces and reinstate sacked minister Balram Singh Yadav when he expands his cabinet for the seventh time on Monday.
This is likely to be the last cabinet expansion before the assembly election due early next year.
Balram Singh Yadav was axed for facilitating the merger of gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal with the Samajwadi Party (SP). However, the chief minister got the merger scrapped at a parliamentary board meeting on Saturday.
“If our partymen work hard at the booth level, we can return to power without anybody’s support,” Akhilesh said.
Lucknow Central MLA Ravidas Mehrotra, Sarojini Nagar MLA Sharada Pratap Shukla and Sikandarpur (Ballia) MLA Mohammed Ziauddin Rizvi are expected to be the new faces in the ministry, sources indicated on Sunday evening.
While Mehrotra represents traders, Shukla is a Brahmin and Rizi a Muslim. Some promotions and demotions too are expected.
The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Monday, at 11 am at Raj Bhawan.
Hectic lobbying was witnessed on Sunday afternoon because of the high number of aspirants vying for ministerial berths and the likelihood that this expansion would be their last opportunity to be in the council of ministers.
The induction of Mehrotra and Shukla would take the number of ministers from Lucknow in the cabinet to three. Lucknow West MLA Abhishek Mishra has been a cabinet minister since the government was formed in 2012.
Till only two weeks ago, Mehrotra was expected to cross-vote in the Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad elections. Despite the speculation, the Lucknow Central legislator voted for the SP and took pictures of his filled-up ballot paper with his mobile phone to prove his allegiance to the party.
The other names in the reckoning are Sanjay Lathar, a favourite of Akhilesh and an emerging western UP leader; Sunil Singh ‘Sajan’, another minister close to Akhilesh; and Anand Bhadauria.
The last cabinet expansion took place in October last year, and was the biggest under the incumbent chief minister — 12 new faces were inducted into the ministry and portfolios of nine ministers were changed.
The maximum permissible strength of the ministry, including the chief minister, is 60 in Uttar Pradesh.