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Yogi set for a balancing act with first cabinet rejig

The first expansion of chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s 18-month-old, 47-member council of ministers is due anytime soon.

lucknow Updated: Sep 14, 2018 13:24 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Yogi Adityanath,BJP,UP government
A senior BJP leader familiar with the developments said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had reportedly conveyed to Adityanath its displeasure over the functioning of some ministers. (HT )

The first expansion of chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s 18-month-old, 47-member council of ministers is due anytime soon.

According to sources in the chief minister’s office, the clearance for the expansion-cum-reshuffle – as some ministers may be elevated and a few others axed – has been received from the BJP high command.

A senior BJP leader familiar with the developments said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had reportedly conveyed to Adityanath its displeasure over the functioning of some ministers.

He added that some ministers, including those who had been looking after the constituencies that the BJP lost in this year’s Lok Sabha and assembly by-polls, could have their responsibilities redefined.

“However, the larger focus will be on providing representation to the key vote bank and pacifying the angry upper castes,” he added.

Going by the strength of the legislative assembly, Adityanath can have 13 more ministers in his cabinet and is expected to use this not just to increase SC/OBC representation but also to reach out to the upper caste which is annoyed over the Parliament’s decision to restore stringent provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

There are 25 upper caste ministers in the UP government and the number may be increased strategically.

Another BJP leader said: “The party already has a Brahmin state chief (Mahendra Nath Pandey) and a chief minister who, prior to becoming a monk, was born in upper caste. One of the two deputy CMs is a Brahmin and several upper caste ministers are there too. A few more upper caste ministers may be included to placate caste groups considered loyal to the BJP.”

According to sources, some upper caste leaders like cabinet minister Srikant Sharma and ministers of state Suresh Rana and Mahendra Singh, who are considered close to the CM, are likely to be elevated.

BJP strategists are also likely to use the expansion as an exercise to continue to build ties with OBCs and dalits, the two key vote banks on which the party is relying heavily.

As several BJP ministers, including deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and cooperative minister Mukut Bihari Verma, have been making statements on Ayodhya ostensibly to please the party’s Hindutva vote bank, some leaders believe that representation may also be given to leaders from Faizabad and Ayodhya.

Until 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP was largely known as an urban party with a loyal upper caste voter base.

Athar Siddiqui from the Centre of Objective Research and Development, Lucknow, said: “The appointment of Narendra Modi, an OBC, as the BJP’s face in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections saw a drastic change in the party’s approach with saffron brigade reaching out to newer vote banks like dalits and OBCs. Such is the party’s trust on the numerically influential vote bank that it even went to the extent of angering its upper caste voters on the issue of SC/ST Act.”

According to BJP leaders, Hindutva focus would also help in unifying Hindus and nullifying the caste advantage that the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) enjoy in UP.

The Adityanath government has 5 dalit and 15 OBC ministers. However, it doesn’t have any Jatav dalit in the ministry.

Jatavs are considered loyal to the BSP and the party is expected to give representation to this key dalit sub-caste in the ministry expansion. OBC groups, which did not get representation till now, may also be included in the cabinet.

First Published: Sep 14, 2018 13:24 IST