Lucknow: In a move widely believed to be an attempt at reviving the sagging public image of his government, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday undertook a major reshuffle in his team, dismissing eight ministers and withdrawing the departments from nine ministers. It’s also being seen as a move from Akhilesh to move out of the shadows of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and have his own stamp on the ministry.
Interestingly, the move was expected after the Bihar assembly elections early next month scheduled to end next month, and the sudden announcement came as a shock to the sacked ministers. The charges of all 17 ministers will vest in the chief minister till the oath-taking of new entrants and allocation of work, which will be held on 31 October.
Speculations about this exercise had grown after Akhilesh met the state Governor Ram Naik in Lucknow on Wednesday 28 October to discuss the expansion of his cabinet. According to a notification from the Raj Bhawan, the Governor, on the advice of the Chief Minister, removed Cabinet ministers Raja Mahendra Aridaman Singh (Stamps, Registration and Civil Defence), Ambika Chaudhary (Backward Classes and Handicapped Welfare), Shiv Kumar Beriya (Textiles and Silk), Narad Rai (Khadi and Village Industries), Shivakant Ojha (Technical Education), Ministers of State Alok Kumar Shakya (Technical Education), Yogesh Pratap Singh (Basic Education), and Bhagwat Sharan Gangwar (Micro, Small and Medium Industries).
In a more surprising move, the departments of nine cabinet ministers have been withdrawn. These include Ahmad Hasan (Health and Family Welfare), Raghvendra Pratap Singh ‘Raja Bhaiya’ (Food and Civil Supplies), Awadhesh Prasad (Social Welfare, Scheduled Castes and Tribes Welfare), Paras Nath Yadav (Horticulture and Food Processing), Ram Govind Chaudhary (Basic Education), Durga Prasad Yadav (Transport), Brahma Shankar Tripathi (Home Guards), Iqbal Mahmood (Fisheries and Public Enterprises) and Mahboob Ali (Secondary Education).
Significantly, there has been a complete revamp in the field of education, and there will be new faces handling technical, secondary and basic education.
Whereas the talk of a major overhaul of the ministry had been making the rounds for several weeks, it was believed that it would come next month. Most of the leaders affected in the reshuffle are veterans in the ruling party, and the action against them indicates a sense of urgency on the part of the chief minister to undertake an image makeover. It also indicates that Akhilesh could finally be taking decisions on his own, since most of the individuals included in Thursday’s exercise are considered to be close to the Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav. Notable among them are Raja Mahendra Aridaman Singh, Ambika Chaudhary, Shivakant Ojha, Ahmed Hasan, Raghvendra Pratap Singh, Durga Prasad Yadav and Paras Nath Yadav.
According to party sources, most of the affected ministers were found unable to control growing factionalism in the party in their districts, while others, especially in education and industries, were facing charges of corruption. For the last several months, Mulayam Singh Yadav had been saying at public platforms that many ministers were not doing their jobs properly and had asked Akhilesh to remove them. Mulayam had also been saying that he was receiving complaints from party workers about many ministers failing to get any work done in their areas.
The exercise, it is learnt, is aimed to give Akhilesh greater say in choosing individuals of his choice for the rest of the tenure of his government. Many young SP leaders might be given ministerial berths, while some others considered close to Akhilesh could be elevated to the Cabinet level. Uttar Pradesh has a maximum permissible strength of 60 for the council of ministers. It is being speculated that up to ten members could be inducted into the Akhilesh ministry.
In a quick reaction, the state president of Bharatiya Janata Party Laxmikant Bajpai held a press conference to claim that the state Government would not get any mileage from this move as the “people have made up their minds to get rid of the government itself.” He also asked why the Minister for Mining Gayatri Prajapti had not removed despite several charges against him leveled by officers, local people and the BJP itself. He also wondered whether the chief minister agreed with the recent statements of senior minister Mohammad Azam Khan.
BJP’s spokesman Vijay Pathak said it was surprising that the ministers were dismissed whereas the Chief Minister could easily have asked them to resign.
The state president of the Congress Nirmal Khatri said that it was a “half-hearted” and belated step by the chief minister. He also wondered why many other minister facing serious charges of corruption had not been removed. “It appears that the chief minister has taken this step to settle the caste arithmetic, and the people have seen through it,” he claimed.