Expanding his cabinet on Sunday evening, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath inducted 7 new ministers, including former Congress leader Jitin Prasada.
Besides Prasad, six others administered oath as Ministers of State (MoS) to Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, Paltu Ram, Sangeeta Balwant, Sanjeev Kumar, Dinesh Khatik and Dharamvir Singh.
With 7 new joining, the strength of the Uttar Pradesh cabinet has gone up to 60.
The expansion comes months ahead of the assembly elections in Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh. Keeping in mind the caste equation of the state, the Chief Minister of UP also included leaders in his team.
Jitin Prasad, who quit the Congress in July this year, was the top Brahmin face in Uttar Pradesh before jumping to the BJP in June. He had jumped from the Congress to the BJP amid internal concerns of the saffron party about the low representation of the community in the party.
In the electoral state, Brahmins make up about 13% of the vote and are an influential part who may have consistently switched from the Congress to the BJP over the years. In July last year, Prasad started a “Brahmin Chetna Parishad”, but it had little effect.
Last week Yogi Adityanath had confidently predicted that the BJP would retain power in Uttar Pradesh with a thumping majority and was also expected to win over 350 of the state’s 403 seats.
In 2017, BJP had won 325 seats. The Samajwadi Party and its allies had won 54 seats and the BSP 19.
Next year’s assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are being seen as the BJP’s toughest test as the party has seen relatively poor performance in other states and lost in West Bengal as well.
The BJP retained power in Assam earlier this year, but failed to build an edge against Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, winning zero seats in Kerala and losing in Tamil Nadu.
Next year’s UP elections will be a tough task for the BJP to overcome the concerns of its MPs and MLAs, which they raised during the second wave of Covid. There will also be questions on Yogi Adityanath’s reach and leadership to handle the second wave of Kovid.