In a politically significant move, two Ministers of State in the Akhilesh Yadav Ministry, Gayatri Prasad Prajapati and Manoj Kumar Pandey, who are Samajwadi Party MLAs from Amethi and Unchahar ( Rae Bareli district ) have been elevated to the rank of Cabinet ministers. They were administered the oath of office by the Uttar Pradesh Governor, B.L. Joshi at the Raj Bhavan on Saturday.

Shivakant Ojha, MLA from Raniganj in Pratapgarh district was also been appointed a Minister but could not take his oath as he is on the 22­ member delegation of Minister, MLAs and officials currently on a tour to five countries. Mr. Ojha was earlier in the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The short Cabinet expansion on Saturday was attended by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav and Samajwadi Party president, Mulayam Singh.

An OBC, Mr. Prajapati who till his elevation was the Minister of State ( Independent Charge) for Mines and Minerals, led the recent “Samajik Nyay Rath Yatra” which was launched to woo the 17 OBCs whose cause for their inclusion in the list of Scheduled Castes has been taken by the State Government. The Amethi MLA’s elevation comes a day after the Congress vice president and Amethi MP, Rahul Gandhi set out to marshal his forces in the Lok Sabha poll, and a few days after Kumar Vishwas of Aam Aadmi Party held a rally at Amethi.

Mr. Manoj Pandey, till now the Minister of State for Agriculture and Agriculture Education is MLA from Unchahar in Rae Bareli, was earlier projected as the Brahmin face of the Samajwadi Party. Considered close to the SP president, Mr. Pandey had organized the first Brahmin sammelan following the formation of the Samajwadi Party Government in 2012.

Rae Bareli is represented in the Lok Sabha by the UPA Chairperson and Congress president, Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Pandey’s elevation to Cabinet rank had fuelled speculations about the possibility of Mr. Mulayam Singh fielding a candidate from Rae Bareli in the coming Lok Sabha election. SP candidates were not been fielded from Rae Bareli in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Mr. Pandey was, however, non­committal on the issue. When quizzed he told reporters that Rae Bareli was the “karmbhumi” of Socialist leaders, Raj Narain and Ram Manohar Lohia.

Following the Cabinet expansion, the Council of Ministers now has 60 members.