Within 15 days of his expulsion, the controversial Gayatri Prasad Prajapati has been re-inducted as a minister in Uttar Pradesh (UP) Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s cabinet. The first thing he did after swearing-in was to touch the CM’s feet; not once or twice, but thrice. All the while, as Prajapati exhibited his reverence to Akhilesh, the latter gave him the cold shoulder by looking in another direction.
Reminiscent as it may be to a Balaji soap opera, Akhilesh’s reaction wasn’t surprising. Prajapati was sacked from the post of Mining Minister by Akhilesh on various corruption charges, including taking kickbacks in mining contracts, allegations of land grabbing and extortion.
Newslaundry has learnt that by sacking Prajapati, the CM had wanted to save his government from the embarrassment coming Samajwadi Party’s (SP) way in the form of a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry. Allahabad High Court ordered a CBI investigation to probe illegal mining in UP, including the role of government officials on July 28. It gave the CBI a six-week deadline (starting July 28) to conduct a probe and file a report. Sources told Newslaundry that Akhilesh believes that once the CBI files a report in this case, there is high possibility of Prajapati being named as one of the accused in the mining scandals.
However, Prajapati’s ouster triggered a war within the Yadav clan. With his uncle Shivpal threatening to resign and his father and SP chief openly coming out in support of Prajapati, Akhilesh was forced eat humble pie and accommodate Prajapati in the UP cabinet again. Consequently, earlier today, Akhilesh went for the eighth cabinet expansion since assuming office in 2012, and Prajapati was included in it.
With this, Prajapati achieves the distinction of being the only SP leader in the present government to be sworn-in for the fourth time in Akhilesh’s government. In January 2013, during the first expansion of the cabinet, he was sworn in as state minister for irrigation, followed by another swearing-in as state minister for mining department and in 2014, he was promoted to Mining Minister.
At the swearing in, after touching an indifferent Akhilesh’s feet, Prajapati went to SP chief Mulayam. He seated himself comfortably near Netaji’s feet, beckoned the cameraperson and then fell to Mulayam’s feet. From Mulayam, Prajapati moved to Shivpal, and repeated the same ritual. Finally, the UP Governor told Prajapati, “Anushashan mein rahein (Maintain discipline)”.
Out of 10 new ministers sworn in, besides Prajapati, Manoj Pandey and Shivakant Ojha are two who were previously sacked by Akhilesh on charges of being not competent enough to be a part of his cabinet. “Elevation of state minister Abhishek Mishra to a cabinet minister and re-induction of Manoj Pandey and Shivakant Ojha, was done on the instructions of Netaji,” said a leader close to Akhilesh.
With roughly 12 per cent Brahmin voters in UP, SP doesn’t want to be left behind other parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and Congress. BSP is working on its tried-and-tested formula of social engineering that combines Dalit and Brahmin voters, with inclusion of Muslim voters this time. Congress has already announced Sheila Dixit as its chief ministerial candidate and BJP is desperately looking for a credible Brahmin face to lead the party in 2017 UP assembly elections.
“Netaji knows that Muslim voters are slipping from the party’s fold. Bringing in Brahmin voters in SP fold would help us check our decline,” said the SP leader. “Also with the stamp of Netaji on the ministers inducted in the cabinet, it is an indication to Akhilesh of who is the real boss in the party.”
Meanwhile, the re-induction of Prajapati has provided sufficient ammo to the opposition parties. BSP supremo Mayawati attacked the SP, saying that “the return of Parajapati in Akhilesh’s government proves that UP is in the grip of uncontrolled corruption”.