2 UP ministers sacked as Akhilesh looks for image makeover

2 UP ministers sacked as Akhilesh looks for image makeover

2 UP ministers sacked as Akhilesh looks for image makeover
In an image-refurbishing exercise ahead of Assembly elections, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav today sacked two ministers facing corruption charges while more heads could roll.

Mining minister Gayatri Prajapati and Panchayti Raj minister Rajkishore Singh were dropped within a span of an hour, just days after Akhilesh spoke of "zero tolerance" on the issue of corruption and allegations of land-grabbing against some ministers.

The Opposition, however, termed it as a "poll-oriented eyewash". Prajapati was first to be axed today over the allegations of corruption. The action came three days after the Allahabad High Court rejected the SP government's plea to withdraw an order for a CBI probe into alleged illegal mining in the state.

Taking grim view of illegal mining in Uttar Pradesh, the HC on July 28 directed the CBI to probe the matter across the state, including the role of government officials in facilitating the same, and submit a report within six weeks. Akhilesh was said to be unhappy with the minister who was mired in controversy over allegations of promoting illegal mining. The chief minister then showed the door to Singh, who too was facing allegations of corruption.

Governor Ram Naik accepted the chief minister's recommendation to sack them, a Raj Bhawan communique said. Social Welfare Minister Ramgovind Chowdhury was given the charge of Panchyati Raj department while Food Processing minister Moolchandra Chauhan of Mining department, it said.

SP insiders said a few more heads could roll in the coming days. The action comes close on the heels of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav sounding a warning to party leaders, saying action needed to be taken against those involved in land grabbing and other corrupt activities if the party wanted to return to power in the 2017 Assembly polls.

The Opposition, however, alleged that the sacking of ministers was just an eyewash to hide the corruption charges faced by certain ministers. "Illegal mining is rampant in UP and it is an open secret that she (Prajapati) was promoting it. Now when the HC has taken serious view of the matter and ordered CBI probe, the CM's decision is a mere eyewash. It will not help as people know the reality," Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi said.

BJP said it was good that the chief minister has taken the decision but it should have been taken earlier. "Our party has been raising the issue of illegal mining in the state. The decision should have been taken earlier," BJP state general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak said.

Mulayam had also minced no words in openly condemning those involved in land grabbing and had directed all party leaders to shun "money-making activities". Senior Cabinet minister Shivpal Yadav had spoken in the same refrain and criticised those indulging in land grabbing and bringing a bad name to the party in the poll-bound state. He had even threatened to resign alleging rampant corruption in the Uttar Pradesh government headed by Mulayam's son.

Prajapati was made Minister of State for Irrigation in February 2013, and later given the lucrative berth of mining, directly under Akhilesh who held the portfolio. In July 2013, the CM elevated Prajapati to MoS (Independent) and in January 2014, she was promoted as Cabinet Minister.

With Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections inching closer, Akhilesh has been concentrating on sprucing up the image of his government and recently overturned the decision of his father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on the merger of the Quami Ekta Dal (QED). The QED, an eastern UP-based political party is headed by ex-SP MP Afzal Ansari, who is elder brother of mafia-turned- politician Mukhtar Ansari, currently jailed in connection with the murder of a BJP MLA.

Akhilesh was adamant that the merger be called off because he wanted to maintain his clean image, once he had sought to establish by opposing criminal DP Yadav in the party before the 2012 Assembly polls. His stand had won the party political mileage after it had lost power in 2007 on the issue of poor law and order. Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are due early next year and law and order situation in the state has become a major poll issue.
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