Lucknow: Months before next year’s scheduled assembly elections in the state, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath expanded his cabinet Sunday, inducting former Congress leader and prominent Brahmin face, Jitin Prasada.
The UP CM also inducted six other ministers who were given MoS ranks — Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, Paltu Ram, Sangeeta Balwant Bind, Sanjeev Gond, Dinesh Khatik, and Dharmaveer Singh.
The ministers took oath of office at the Raj Bhavan in Lucknow Sunday.
The expansion of the council of ministers was a clear exercise in social engineering, with the BJP seeking to counter opposition parties’ moves to woo Brahmins by inducting Prasada in in the cabinet, and giving more representation to OBCs and Dalits. After Sunday’s expansion, Yogi Adityanath’s council of ministers comprises 28 upper caste members, 21 from the OBCs, eight SC members, one ST and two from the minority communities (one Muslim and one Sikh).
CM Adityanath’s last ministry expansion before this was on 21 August 2019, when he had inducted 23 ministers.
10 Brahmins now in ministry
Brahmins, with a representation of 10, now form the biggest caste group in the 60-member Yogi ministry, while nine Thakurs make them the second largest group.
A BJP member told ThePrint on condition of anonymity, “Though the party already had nine Brahmins in the ministry (before Jitin Prasada’s inclusion), the government still had an ‘anti-brahmin’ image. Prasada’s induction in the cabinet was to counter this.”
Prior to joining the BJP, Prasada had been conducting a Brahmin Chetna Yatra in the state. It was this positioning, as a prominent Brahmin face in UP, that had helped him get traction in the state, the party member added.
A BJP functionary who also did not want to be named confirmed to ThePrint that Prasada will be nominated as an MLC in UP, as he’s not a member of either legislative house.
3 OBCs, 2 SCs, 1 ST added to ministry
Sunday’s expansion also included Dharmveer Prajapati, an OBC leader and Agra MLC, who was inducted as a MoS. Prajapati is currently vice-chairman of the UP Khadi and Gramodyog Board. After two leaders from UP’s Kurmi community — Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel and BJP’s Pankaj Chaudhary — got berths in the Narendra Modi cabinet in a reshuffle earlier this year, another Kurmi leader, Chhatrapal Gangwar, MLA from Bareilly’s Baheri seat, has now been included in the Yogi ministry. Kurmis comprise approximately 6-8 per cent of the population in UP.
From the Nishad community, Sangeeta Balwant Bind was inducted. According to a source in BJP, “her induction is a bid to create a Nishad leadership within the party”. “Binds are among Nishads who belongs to the OBC category, an important vote bank in eastern UP,” the source said.
From the Scheduled Tribes, which had no representation in the Yogi ministry earlier, Sanjay Gond, chief of BJP’s ST morcha in the state, was inducted as an MoS.
Jatav leader and MLA from Balrampur’s Sadar seat, Paltu Ram, and Dinesh Khatik from Meerut— a Sonker community leader — also got ministerial berths.
4 MLC names also finalised
According to the BJP functionary quoted above, the party Sunday also finalised candidates for four vacant MLC seats.
In addition to Prasada and Nishad Party chief Dr Sanjay Nishad, another nomination is that of Gopal Anjaan from the Bhurji community (which is a part of the OBC grouping).
Chaudhary Virendra Singh Gurjar, from western UP’s Gurjar community, who had switched loyalties from the Samajwadi Party to the BJP a few days before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, will also be nominated as an MLC, the BJP functionary said.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)