Lucknow, Feb 7 (Tehelka Bureau): UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, has landed in a fresh controversy after the first expansion of his 11 month old cabinet by inducting ministers with criminal background. The cabinet expansion failed to meet the desired objective of sending a message that he was the boss and giving an image makeover to his 11 month old government marked by a lackluster performance, deterioration in law and order, communal violence and protection of the party leaders with tainted background and criminal activities.
Of the 12 ministers inducted today, one has been given Cabinet rank, one has been made Minister of state with independent charge while the other 10 are Ministers of state. The lone Cabinet Minister inducted today is the Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chowdhary, a Jat from Ghaziabad. Four Ministers, Pawan Pandey, Manoj Pandey( both choices of the chief minister), Rammurti Singh and Yogesh Pratap Singh, face criminal charges. Vinod Singh, alias Pandit Singh, who was asked to resign by the CM in October last year following his alleged involvement in the abduction and manhandling of the Chief Medical Officer of Gonda, was reinducted as Minister of state.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav however defended the induction of Vinod Singh. “The report of the inquiry ordered by the government over his alleged involvement in the abduction of the CMO Gonda, has exonerated him of all the charges, so he is innocent, hence we have given him another opportunity as a minister,” the CM said. Vinod Singh, angry over the refusal by the CMO Gonda, Dr S P Singh, to accommodate his nominees on the list of doctors on contract recruited in the district under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), had abducted and manhandled the CMO. Later the minister had to resign on October 12 and the government ordered a probe.
The CM also defended K C Pandey, who was recently appointed as Chairman of UP sugarcane research Council, with the rank of Minister of state, saying that he has done nothing wrong. “Political leaders always recommend several things on the demand of the public. But it is up to the officials to accept it or reject it,” the CM said, adding “ Pandey did no wrong, it was the media which had blown the issue out of proportion’’.
KC Pandey, a native of Gonda district, and General Secretary of the Samajwadi Brahman Sabha, is accused of protecting a gang of cattle smugglers in the district. He had also offered a bribe of Rs 20 lakh to the district SP, Navneet Rana, for releasing the trucks, carrying the cattle, impounded by the police. The Gonda SP, who had conducted a sting operation against the SP leader, was shunted out of the district on 6th February. Navneet Rana had also lodged an FIR against the SP leader under the relevant provisions of IPC and UP Cow protection Act. KC Pandey had threatened Navneet Rana to release one Ashutosh Pandey arrested in this case and to release the trucks carrying the cattle. He had also offered that the smugglers would pay money regularly so that no one could obstruct their illegal business.
A PIL has also been filed in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court against the appointment of KC Pandey and rank of Minister of state given to him by the state government. The high court has issued a notice and directed the state government to file the counter affidavit within two weeks stating as to what was the criterion and minimum qualification for the appointment of a person as chairman of PSU, boards and other autonomous bodies.
Earlier the State Governor BL Joshi administered the oath of office and secrecy to the ministers in a simple ceremony at Raj Bhawan today. SP chief and father of the CM, Mulayam Singh Yadav was also present on the occasion. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said that in the cabinet expansion youths were given priority. He also hoped that the new ministers would work for the people.
The ministers inducted today include no women or Muslim legislators. The 12 ministers include 5 OBC’s, 3 Brahmin’s, 2 Rajput’s, and one each from the Jat and Vaisya community. 9 youths were inducted among the 12 new ministers.
After this expansion, the strength of the UP Council of Ministers has risen to 60, the maximum possible number of ministers in the assembly of 403.
Of the total 12 ministers who took oath today included Rajendra Chaudhary (Cabinet rank), Vijay Kumar Mishra( Minister of state with independent charge), Vijay Bhadur Pal,Ram Sakal Gujar,Vinod Singh, Gaytari Prajapati,Yogesh Pratap Singh, Ram Murti Verma,Pawan Pandey, Nitin Agarwal and Manoj Kumar Pandey( all Ministers of state rank).Vijay Kumar Mishra, a first timer has been elevated as the Minister of state with Independent Charge. Senior politician and former MP Ram Murti Verma of Shahjahanpur, is another Minister of state.
Senior Samajwadi Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Naresh Agarwal’s son Nitin Agarwal also got the chance in the Akhilesh ministry. Both father and son are party hoppers. Naresh, former Congressmen, broke away from the Congress in 1997 and floated Loktantrik Congress party. Ahead of the 2002 Assembly polls he joined the SP. In 2008 he resigned as SP MLA and joined the BSP and his son Nitin Agarwal was elected on a BSP ticket from the assembly seat vacated by him. Ahead of the 2012 assembly polls Naresh Agarwal along with his son deserted the BSP and joined the SP.
Two ministers and first time MLAs were from the Congress bastion of Rae Bareli and Amethi. Manoj Kumar Pandey of Rae Bareli, against whom there are several criminal cases and Gaytri Prajapati of Amethi have been given a chance in the ministry. Except for Rammurti Verma and Vijay Bahadur Pal, all the new ministers are youth. This was the first expansion of about 11 month-old Council of Ministers led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who was sworn in on March 15 last year. With this the number of Cabinet Ministers in UP has gone up to 21, Ministers of state with independent charge to 5 and Ministers of state to 34.