The much speculated expansion of the Uttar Pradesh cabinet will take place on Thursday. Chief Minister Aklhilesh Yadav, who gave indications to that effect on Tuesday, is all set for enlarging the size of his 56-member council of ministers.
The 401-member UP assembly allows an upper limit of 60 ministers, so Akhilesh can induct four new faces. However, sources close to Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav claimed that it was unlikely that all four vacancies would be filled. “There was every possibility that at least two ministers would be dropped and two new ones ushered in,” said a highly placed source.
While closed-door confabulations were going on between Mulayam, Akhilesh and his two uncles Ram Gopal Yadav and Shivpal Yadav to finalise the names of ministers, speculation was rife about the re-induction of controversial independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, who was dropped from the cabinet on account of accusations of his involvement in the killing of his constituency’s deputy superintendent of police Zia Ul Haque in March last. His re-induction will be seen as a clear indication of the Samjwadi Party’s strategy to woo the Thakur community.
According to an insider, induction of at least two Muslim ministers was also on the cards. With Labour Minister Waqar Ahmad Shah hospitalised and having suffered irreversible brain damage, there was a possibility of his son being inducted even though he is not a member of either house of state legislature.
The expansion-cum-reshuffle was likely to be done with an eye on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
A high-level administrative shake-up is also likely to be undertaken soon after the cabinet reshuffle. Akhilesh has drawn much flak because of the non-performance of his 16-month old government. The administrative team was handpicked by his father Mulayam or his nominee Anita Singh, who was carefully appointed as secretary to the CM.
Sources in the chief minister’s office often complained about Akhilesh getting bypassed by certain extra-Constitutional authorities. His failures arising on account of his lack of control over the bureaucracy are bound to have their bearing on the fate of the ruling party at the 2014 general elections. Hence, he appears to be in a hurry to put an end to all the backseat driving by his father and uncles and to actually wield the reins of governance.