The induction of Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya in the Akhilesh Yadav Cabinet has raised eyebrows in Samajwadi Party circles, given that several criminal cases are pending against the Independent MLA from Kunda.

Raja Bhaiyya, said to be close to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister's father and SP chief Mulayam Singh, has been given the rank of Cabinet Minister.

The names of the Ministers who took the oath of office on Thursday were reportedly finalised by the SP president.

The five-time MLA, though contesting the Assembly elections as an Independent, has been moving in the SP circles since 2003 when Mr. Singh, as Chief Minister, revoked the POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) charges against him. He was then made Food Minister. Raja Bhaiyya was booked under the POTA by the former Chief Minister, Mayawati, in 2002.

Mr. Akhilesh Yadav consistently maintained during the election campaign that there was no place for tainted persons in the party. He even blocked the entry of the alleged mafia don-turned politician D.P. (Dharam Pal) Yadav when the Rashtriya Parivartan Dal chief lobbied through the influential SP leader, Mohammad Azam Khan.

However, at his maiden press conference after taking over as Chief Minister, Mr. Yadav defended Raja Bhaiyya's induction.

“The previous regime had slapped several cases on the Kunda MLA and he had even gone to jail.”

According to Mr. Yadav, these cases were political in nature.

Raja Bhaiyya was alongside Mr. Yadav when he addressed the media at the party headquarters after the SP won a landslide victory. He was also among the leaders who inspected the arrangements on the La Martiniere College ground before the swearing-in ceremony.

Another MLA, Mehboob Ali, from Amroha in Jyotiba Phule Nagar district, who has over a dozen cases pending against him according to a report published by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), has been inducted as Minister of State.

On the other hand, many hopefuls were left out, among them the former Minister, Shakir Ali, who defeated Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Surya Pratap Shahi; Tej Narayan Pandey, who won Ayodhya for the SP; Adil Sheikh, who trounced Speaker Sukhdev Rajbhar; and two other former Ministers, Narad Rai and Shivendra Singh.