The appointment of OBC leader and Uttar Pradesh minister Swatantra Dev Singh as the new state BJP chief has once again put the spotlight on the reshuffling of the cabinet headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Singh cannot simultaneously hold the posts of a minister and the state party chief, according to the BJP's "one person-one post" principle.
Singh is the minister of state (independent charge) for transport and protocol. "The possibility of a reshuffling of the state cabinet goes up with Singh's appointment as the new Uttar Pradesh BJP chief," a senior leader of the saffron party's state unit told PTI on Wednesday. He pointed out that three state ministers were elected to Parliament in the polls held in April-May, while one was sacked. The three ministers who successfully contested the Lok Sabha election are SP Singh Baghel from Agra, Rita Bahuguna Joshi from Allahabad and Satyadev Pachauri from Kanpur.
Disgruntled minister and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) leader OP Rajbhar was sacked by the chief minister for his outburst against his NDA partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "Reshuffling of the cabinet is the chief minister's prerogative. It will take place once the nod comes from party president Amit Shah," the BJP leader said.
Uttar Pradesh currently has 18 cabinet ministers, nine ministers of state with independent charge and 13 ministers of state, in addition to two deputy chief ministers -- Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma. While Maurya holds the public works department, food processing, entertainment tax, and public enterprises portfolios, Sharma is in charge of the secondary education and higher education, science and technology, electronics and information technology departments.
The total number of ministers in the state, including the chief minister, is 43. "The maximum strength of the cabinet can be 15 percent of the total strength of the Assembly. The Uttar Pradesh Assembly has 403 seats and hence, the state can have a maximum of 61 ministers, including the chief minister," UP BJP vice-president JPS Rathore said. After the declaration of the Lok Sabha poll results, Adityanath, in an interview to PTI, had said a cabinet reshuffle was on the cards and he was likely to take a decision in this regard soon. "We will do it (cabinet expansion). We will do everything as and when the time comes. We will do everything in the interest of the state," the chief minister had said.
Ahead of the bypolls to 12 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP appointed Singh as the new chief of its state unit on Tuesday. Hailing from the influential Kurmi caste, the 55-year-old OBC leader replaces Mahendra Nath Pandey, a Brahmin, who moved to the Centre on his re-election to the Lok Sabha from Chandauli. Sticking to its "one person-one post" policy, the saffron party replaced its Uttar Pradesh unit chief as Pandey was inducted into the Union ministry. Since the upcoming Assembly bypolls will be the ruling party's first major test after its resounding Lok Sabha election victory, Singh's job is cut out.
His appointment is being seen as part of the BJP's effort to consolidate its base among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), who strongly backed the saffron party in the 2017 state Assembly and the recently-concluded Lok Sabha polls. Singh was in charge of the BJP affairs in Madhya Pradesh during the parliamentary polls. The saffron party bagged 28 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh.
"The task was indeed challenging as the BJP had lost the (MP) Assembly polls to the Congress. To boost the morale of the party workers and ensure a positive result was indeed a tough task," Uttar Pradesh BJP media coordinator Rakesh Tripathi said. "His (Singh's) efforts paid rich dividends as Congress bigwigs such as Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia had to taste defeat," he added. Another state BJP leader said Singh effectively tackled the internal bickering in the Madhya Pradesh unit of the party, resulting in a massive victory in the Lok Sabha polls.
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