In the fast changing political scenario of Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav today expanded his cabinet probably for the last time before the state witnessed the crucial elections in early 2017.
While the reshuffle also saw the sacking of cabinet minister Manoj Kumar Pandey, who held the science and technology portfolio, senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Balram Yadav and Narad Rai were re-inducted in the cabinet.
Over the last week, fresh developments have changed the dynamics of the UP politics.
While the ruling SP first announced the merger of Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) of mafia-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari with itself, the decision was later scrapped over the displeasure of Akhilesh and some other senior party members.
The principal opposition Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also witnessed its prominent leader and leader of the opposition in UP assembly Swami Prasad Maurya revolting against BSP chief Mayawati and acrimoniously parting ways. He is being courted by other parties to joint their ranks.
This was the 7th cabinet expansion under Akhilesh regime, which had taken over the reigns on March 15, 2012 after scoring a majority in the polls and in the process displacing the Mayawati government.
Balram Yadav was dropped from the cabinet on June 21 over his role in the merger of QED with SP. Ansari is still behind bars in connection with the murder case of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Krishnanand Rai and several others, including cops.
Other ministers inducted in the council of ministers included Ziya-ud-din Rizvi (cabinet minister) and ministers of state (MoS) (independent charge) Ravidas Mehrotra and Sharda Pratap Shukla.
Rizvi, who is out of the country for pilgrimage, is likely to be administered the oath of office next month.
Governor Ram Naik administered the oath of office to the new members at the Raj Bhawan. While, Akhilesh Yadav and SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav were present on the occasion, senior cabinet minister Shivpal Singh Yadav skipped the ceremony.
Now, UP council of ministers have 60 members, including 26 cabinet, 12 MoS (independent charge) and 22 MoS. Since, the strength of the council of ministers cannot exceed 15 percent of the total strength of assembly (403), there is no scope of further expansion unless some members are replaced.