Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday expanded his Cabinet for the seventh and perhaps for the last time, before state assembly election scheduled to take place next year.
Lucknow Central MLA Ravidas Mehrotra, Sarojini Nagar MLA Sharada Pratap Shukla and Sikandarpur (Ballia) MLA Mohammed Ziauddin Rizvi are the new members of the Uttar Pradsh Cabinet.
While Mehrotra and Shukla took the oath today, Rizvi, was out on Umrah, the religious pilgrimage to Mecca and therefore could not be administered oath.
Ravidas Mehrotra and Sharda Pratap Shukla were administered oath as Ministers of State (Independent Charge). Portfolios to the newly inducted ministers would be allocated later.
Balram Singh Yadav who was axed for facilitating the merger of gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal (QED) with the Samajwadi Party, was today re-inducted into the state cabinet.
Ballia Nagar MLA Narad Rai, who was sacked by Akhilesh in December, 2015 along with seven others, was also brought back today.
Just before the expansion, CM Akhilesh removed Science and Technology Minister Manoj Pandey, apparently over latter's unsatisfied performance in the ministry. He was replaced by Narad Rai.
With the latest expansion, there is no vacancy left in the Akhilesh ministry, which has a total strength of 60 members. The ministry comprises 26 cabinet minister, 12 MoS (Independent Charge) and 22 MoS.
SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh and national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav were present at the oath ceremony.
Senior Samajwadi Party leader and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s brother Shivpal Singih Yadav gave a miss to the ceremony, reportedly due to his disagreement with CM Akhilesh over merger of Mukhtar Ansari's Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) with the party.
A major controversy erupted after the merger of QED with the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in the poll-bound state. The merger was approved by Shivpal, but was later vetoed by Akhilesh.
Senior leaders of the ruling party said that party chief Mulayam Singh and Public Works Department Minister Shivpal Singh wanted the rejig to reflect inclusiveness and balance the caste and community, while the Chief Minister was keen on bringing in new faces and doers.
The last expansion had taken place on 31 October last year when five cabinet ministers, eight ministers of state with independent charge and eight state ministers, were inducted by Yadav.
The cabinet expansion is likely to be the last ahead of the 2017 state assembly polls.