Adityanath expands Cabinet, inducts seven fresh faces
New entrants include six from numerically significant non-Yadav OBC, non-Jatav Dalit castes
With less than six months left for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the BJP government led by Yogi Adityanath on Sunday expanded its Council of Ministers, inducting seven fresh faces, including six from the numerically significant non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalit castes, whose support has been the key to the BJP’s success in the State in the last few elections.
Jitin Prasada, Brahmin leader and former MP who quit the Congress and joined the BJP in June, was rewarded with a Cabinet berth as the BJP tries to consolidate its grip over the influential community.
The remaining six, who were administered oath as Ministers of State by Governor Anandiben Patel, comprise three OBCs and three Dalits, including one from the Scheduled Tribe community. It was widely speculated that Nishad Party president Sanjay Nishad, an ally of the BJP, would find a place in the Cabinet expansion but that did not happen.
Mr. Prasada won the Lok Sabha election from Dhauraha in 2009 but lost consecutive elections in 2014 and 2019, standing fourth and third, and even lost the Assembly election from Tilhar in 2017 despite the support of the Samajwadi Party.
Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar is an MLA from Baheri in Bareilly district and belongs to the Kurmi caste, traditionally associated with farming. Mr. Gangwar has RSS background and held different positions in the outfit in the district since the 1980s. Sangeeta Balwant, an MLA from Ghazipur, is a Bind, an OBC, part of the riverine backward caste communities in the State. She held the post of a district mantri of the BJP in 2016 before going on to win her first Assembly election in 2017.
Dharmveer Singh Prajapati, an OBC MLC from Agra, also took oath.
Out of the three Dalit ministers, two belong to the Khatik community, a Scheduled Caste found across the State.
They are Dinesh Khatik, a first-time MLA from Hastinapur in Meerut, and Paltooram, MLA from Balrampur. Sanjeev Kumar, who belongs to the Gond caste, a Scheduled Tribe, and is an MLA from Obra in the backward district of Sonbhadra in southern Purvanchal, also took oath. The non-Yadav OBCs and the non-Jatav SCs make up over 40-45% of the votes and it has been a part of the BJP strategy to polarise these smaller communities against the Yadavs and Jatavs to alienate the SP and the BSP which rely heavily on these two castes.
This is the second Cabinet expansion by Mr. Adityanath. In the first expansion in August 2019, ‘upper caste’ and OBC legislators and leaders with RSS-background were favoured as out of the 23 new ministers, 11 were from the ‘upper caste’ while nine were from the OBC castes and three were Dalits.
Mr. Adityanath said the Cabinet expansion reflected the philosophy of Jan Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhayay.
“Today’s expansion is filled with the intent of providing representation to all sections, feeling of social balance, message of harmony and providing opportunity to the person standing on the last rung,” said Mr. Adityanath.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said the Cabinet expansion was a deception and questioned its timing. “They are carrying out a drama of providing representation to those who were deprived of their rights over the last four- and-a-half years,” said Mr. Yadav, adding that by the time the paint on their name plates as ministers dries up, the 2022 Assembly polls would be here.
Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party president Om Prakash Rajbhar, a vocal ally-turned-critic of the BJP, said the party “looted” the rights of OBCs and Dalits for more than four years and deprived them of representation but was now beating its drum by nominating these leaders as ministers for a few months just “for votes.”