The cabinet portfolios of the new Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh have been allocated to a mix of young, new and experienced hands with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to ensure the UP government delivers on welfare measures and schemes, and boosts the infrastructure to bring about a visible change in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
According to AK Verma, a political commentator studying the politics of Uttar Pradesh closely, this is social engineering plus aspirational politics in taking things beyond identity politics. “It is also an exercise in accommodating aspirational politics. Most people in the cabinet are young or new, which is a strategic move. The BJP is a party which believes in getting newcomers to the fold. Some of the portfolios are given to novices, but there will be bureaucrats to aid them,” he said.
With law and order one of the key planks during the 2022 contest, CM Yogi has kept the department with himself.
During the UP election campaign, the opposition had built a narrative against the BJP, claiming they didn’t tame unemployment. The expert believes the issues that were raised have been factored in while allocating the portfolios.
“The BJP hasn’t just held on to its vote share, but has added to it. It is unusual for any incumbent government. The major issues the state faced such as unemployment may have been considered during the allocation,” Verma said.
AK Sharma, considered close to PM Narendra Modi, has been trusted with the crucial task to deliver on this front. He has been made in-charge of the State Urban Development Agency (SUDA) tasked with ‘Nagariye Rozgar and Garibi Unmolan’
Leaders in the party believe that the distribution of portfolios shows the wrongs in the previous government have been fixed. Now, there is a balance of communities and their representation along with a perfect blend of experienced administrative hands and first-time ministers who will learn on the job.
With PM Modi’s focus on improving the health sector in the country, the state has already established 60 medical colleges. A key portfolio – health, medical education – has been assigned to Brajesh Pathak, who had once expressed concerns regarding his government’s inadequate response to Covid.
A key Brahmin face of the state, Jitin Prasada, has been given an important portfolio – public works department.
“As per the CSDS data, the BJP got 42% votes and a majority of it, around 60%, came from OBCs and MBCs. During the portfolio allotment, however, it seems the BJP is again focussing mainly on its core vote bank. Earlier, there was news about Brahmin dissent, however, CSDS data shows that Brahmins voted majorly for the BJP. This time, the BJP would not want to have any Brahmin dissent narrative ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha Polls,” said Pradeep Sharma, political commentator and assistant professor, Shia PG College.
Mahendra Singh, assistant professor of political science at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University, said, “It is a perfect balance of caste and talent. Last year, the health budget, too, was raised and it is a focus area for the government. Giving charge to Pathak is significant,” said Singh.
Many experts believe the most significant of the portfolios in the cabinet has gone to AK Sharma. Sharma has got urban development and power along with alternate sources of energy.
“Metro cities in UP need to be revamped, with a better standard of living, and continued power supply is key to it. In alternate power resources department, ethanol will play a major role and reduce the dependency on traditional sources,” added Singh.
With Har Ghar Jal Yojana, which ensures tap supplied potable water for each home, at the top of Centre and state government’s mind, former BJP state chief Swatantra Dev Singh has been given charge of the Jal Shakti Ministry. He will also oversee and coordinate with the Centre on the Namami Gange project, aimed at cleaning the rivers.
“After Ujjwala, house for the poor and toilets, tap water to every household is going to be the next big scheme to touch the masses in the state,” said Mahendra Singh.
Keshav Prasad Maurya has been given the key rural development department, as the BJP feels that success in electoral polls requires support from rural areas.
Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, a Jat leader, has been given charge of sugarcane development and sugar mills. “Jats have been unhappy with the government over ganna. Now, one of them will deal with Jat discontent, if there is any in the future,” stated a state party leader.
The two bureaucrats in the Yogi government have also been given key posts – former IAS AK Sharma and former IPS Asim Arun. In the previous Yogi government, the urban development ministry was given to Ashutosh Tandon, while power ministry was with Shrikant Sharma. This time, however, both the ministers have been dropped from the Yogi cabinet.
With Dalits backing the BJP, Asim Arun has been entrusted with ensuring that the SC/ST communities are provided with all welfare initiatives of the state government.
Speaking to News18, retired IAS Ram Bahadur said both the officers have a good service record and are aware of people’s problems. “Both the officers have ample service experience. Also, AK Sharma has served in the centre, while Arun has enough experience, along with family background. Both the officers are sensitive and competent and now they have been given with the responsibility to rectify the fault lines inside the department. Importantly, it looks like the government is quite serious about the implementation of various schemes for the public,” he said.
MINISTERS FROM WESTERN UP
In the allotment of portfolio, an attempt has been made to address the dissent in the western part of the state by increasing the stature of the ministers of western UP. Suresh Rana’s department, sugarcane and sugar, has been given to Chaudhary Laxmi Narayan of Western UP. Jaiveer Singh has got an important department like tourism. Bareilly’s Dharampal Singh, who was dropped from the cabinet in the first government, has been given six departments this time.
The most surprising are the departments given to Baby Rani Maurya. It was being speculated that she will be given an important post in the cabinet, however, she has been given the portfolios of Swati Singh, women and child welfare.
ALLIES AND PORTFOLIOS
The key allies of the BJP in the UP Assembly Elections, Apna Dal (S) and Nishad party, expected some important portfolios, but Ashish Patel of Apna Dal has been given technical education, while Sanjay Nishad has been given a department like fisheries that has a challenging task of doubling the income of those engaged in fisheries and allied activities.