Jitin Prasada takes oath as minister in the UP government (Image: ANI)
The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet was expanded on September 26, with former Congress leader Jitin Prasada taking oath as a minister in the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
Apart from Prasada, BJP legislators Chhatrapal Singh, Paltu Ram, Sangita Balwant, Sanjeev Kumar, Dinesh Khatik, and Dharmvir Singh have been inducted into the state Cabinet.
Ram, a former BSP leader who later joined the BJP, is a first-time MLA from Balrampur Sadar constituency.
Kumar, also a first-time legislator, was elected from Jalesar in UP's Etah district, whereas, Khatik is the MLA from western UP's Hastinapur assembly segment.
While Prasada was sworn-in as a minister, Ram, Balwant, Kumar, and Khatik were inducted as ministers of state (MoS).
The oath to office was administered by Governor Anandiben Patel in Lucknow. The Cabinet expansion exercise comes months before the upcoming assembly elections in the state.
The inclusion of Prasada in the new expanded Cabinet is significant, as the former Congress heavyweight is considered to be an influential leader from the Brahmin community.
Brahmins represent 13 percent of UP's population, and their vote share has drifted away from the Congress to the BJP over the past three decades.
Prasada had switched over to the BJP in June this year, nearly a year after joining 23 other dissident Congress leaders in writing a letter to party president Sonia Gandhi seeking an overhaul in the party's functioning.
His crossover to the BJP, and the subsequent inclusion in the Yogi Adityanath government, is expected to boost the party's popularity among the Brahmin voters.
A section of the community, claim political experts, was viewing the current BJP government in the state as pro-Thakur, which is the caste of the chief minister.
Notably, Sanjay Nishad of the Nishad Party, an ally of the BJP, has not been included in the Cabinet. Earlier, speculations were rife that the chief minister may induct Nishad as a minister, in a bid to cement their alliance ahead of the polls.
Before the Cabinet expansion, the Yogi Adityanath government had 53 ministers, including 23 cabinet ministers, nine ministers of state (independent charge), and 21 ministers of state.