INDIA

At least seven ministers to be sworn in at Raj Bhavan today

At least seven ministers to be sworn in at Raj Bhavan today, the vie

With an eye on the 2022 Assembly elections, the expansion will focus on unrepresented castes and political parties

, the vie

File image of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. PTI

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is set to expand his cabinet this evening, sources said. Governor Anandiben Patel has already reached Lucknow from her home state Gujarat, which also underwent a similar exercise just a few weeks ago.

Seven new faces will be inducted in the cabinet at 6 pm, say Raj Bhawan sources.

Sangeeta Bind, Jitin Prasada, Chhatrapal Gangwar, Palturam, Dinesh Khatik and Krishna Paswan could take oath as ministers in Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet. The expansion will focus on underrepresented castes and smaller political parties.

Prasada’s entry is meant to help the BJP reset the optics of the Yogi Adityanath government, perceived by a section of state’s Brahmins as being pro-Thakur (the Chief Minister’s caste). Brahmins make up about 13 percent of UP’s voters and are an influential chunk that has steadily gravitated from Congress towards the BJP over the years.

Sanjay Nishad of the Nishad Party, which is an ally of the BJP, is also expected to be included; this comes a few months after Nishad, who is from the OBC community, expressed unhappiness over his son and MP, Pravin Nishad, not being included in the mega reshuffle of the Union cabinet. He had then warned the BJP of “consequences in the upcoming Assembly poll”.

The Yogi government has 53 ministers, including 23 cabinet ministers, nine ministers of state (independent charge) and 21 ministers of state at present. It can accommodate seven more.

At the Centre, the BJP has 84 MPs from Uttar Pradesh-62 in the Lok Sabha and 22 in the Rajya Sabha, while its ally Apna Dal has two.

This is the first time that Uttar Pradesh has had such a large representation in the central government. This has partly been explained by the overwhelming support BJP got in the 2019 general elections.

But a lot of water has flown under the bridge between then and now.

The 2022 UP election is widely seen as test of the BJP’s appeal at the state level, after relatively poor performances in other state polls. Earlier this year, the BJP retained power in Assam but failed to make headway against Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, won zero seats in Kerala and lost in Tamil Nadu.

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