Akhilesh rejigs ministry, re-inducts tainted leader

In an attempt to balance caste equations, Akhilesh Yadav Thursday inducted 12 new ministers into his Cabinet. All are from communities outside the Samjawadi Party's base of Yadavs and Muslims.

The inductees include a cabinet minister and 11 ministers of state, five of them first-time MLAs.

Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pandit Singh's inclusion came as a surprise. He was forced to resign as MoS for Revenue in October after it was reported that he had barged into the house of Gonda's chief medical officer around midnight and tried to force him to change a selection list of doctors employed under the National Rural Health Mission.

Singh expressed gratitude for his rehabilitation by touching the feet of Akhilesh and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav before and after taking oath.

This was the first expansion of the 11-month-old Akhilesh ministry, which now has 20 cabinet ministers and 38 ministers of state.

The cabinet minister inducted is Rajendra Choudhary, the lone Jat face in the ministry. The ministers of state include four from most backward classes Gayatri Prajapati, Vijay Bahadur Pal, Alok Kumar Shakya and Ram Sakal Gurjar three Brahmins, two Thakurs, a Vaishya and a Lodh.

Vijay Kumar Mishra, a first-time MLA, was made MoS with independent charge. Nitin Agarwal, Manoj Pandey, Yogesh Pratap Singh, Pawan Pandey and Rammurti Verma were also inducted as ministers of state. Nitin is the son of SP general secretary Naresh Agarwal. Verma, a former MP, had left the Congress for the SP before the assembly election last year. He is a Lodh. The SP has tasked him to organise a convention of the 17 castes for which it is demanding SC status on February 16.

Akhilesh defended Singh's re-induction. "We collected information about the incident. It was related to appointments. An inquiry report was also submitted. We discussed it and concluded that he was not involved so he has been reinducted," Akhilesh said.

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