UP ministry expansion an attempt to trump Congress

Inducting “tainted” legislators may have earned UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav plenty of criticism, but the Samajwadi Party is apparently unperturbed by the condemnations as it attempts to represent all caste and regional interests in the Cabinet that could offer rich electoral rewards in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Through the recent cabinet expansion –in which as many as 12 ministers were inducted, including legislators from Raebareli and Amethi, the respective constituencies of Congress chief Sonia and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi-- it has also ventured to trump opposition parties.

By welcoming Gayatri Prajapati, an MLA from Amethi assembly seat, to the ministry, the SP has tried to put pressure on Rahul as well as to woo the “Prajapati” (clay pot makers) community in the state, which roughly constitutes four per cent of the electorate.

The Congress could win only two of the five assembly seats in Amethi.Similarly, the induction of Manoj Pandey, an MLA from Sonia Gandhi's Raebareli seat, is aimed at wooing the strong “Brahmin” community.

Pandey has been holding “Brahmin meets” throughout the state after the SP formed its government in the state.

While the re-induction of Vinod Singh alias Pandit Singh has been the subject of widespread dismay, the “tainted leader” –who has a long criminal record and has kidnapped Chief Medical Officer of Gonda district for refusing to appoint candidates preferred by him for various medical posts—is considered a powerful leader in Gonda, the Lok Sabha constituency of Mulayam Singh’s friend turned rival Beni Prasad Verma, the union steel minister. Another inductee, Yogesh Pratap Singh, is also from Gonda district.

  “The idea (in inducting MLAs from Gonda) is to corner Beni Prasad Verma and force him to confine to his own constituency so that he may not make a dent in the kurmi vote bank of SP'', said an SP leader while speaking to Deccan Herald here.

Similarly caste considerations was mainly behind the induction of Vijay Kumar Pal, whose community plays an important role in the polls in several seats around Agra and Rama Bai Nagar in the state’s western region.

To weaken the former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, who comes from lodh community, one of its representatives, Rammurti Verma, was inducted into the cabinet. Kalyan's party recently merged with BJP.

The objective, according to the SP leader, is to mainly keep the Congress weaker in the state that sends 80 representatives to the lower house.

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