In a minor Cabinet reshuffle, seemingly intended to send a positive signal among Muslims, the Akhilesh Yadav government Friday elevated three junior ministers from the community, all MLAs from western Uttar Pradesh, to Cabinet rank and also inducted a new Muslim face in the ministry.
While Iqbal Mehmood, Mehboob Ali and Shahid Manzoor have been elevated as Cabinet ministers, Yasir Shah was sworn in as a minister of state by Governor B L Joshi during a brief ceremony held at Raj Bhavan.
Yasir Shah is the son of senior Samajwadi Party leader Waqar Ahmed Shah, who was ailing for the past several months and was relieved of his labour portfolio.
Shivakant Ojha, who could not be present during the last reshuffle on January 18 as he was abroad, also took oath as a Cabinet minister.
With this reshuffle, the Akhilesh Yadav Cabinet now has five Muslim Cabinet ministers, including Azam Khan and Ahmed Hasan, and five Ministers of State. The strength of the ministry has risen to 60 — 27 of Cabinet rank, including the Chief Minister, and 33 Ministers of State.
The fifth Cabinet reshuffle of the 21-month-old Akhilesh Yadav ministry came ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. In previous four Cabinet reshuffles, no Muslim was given place and the latest move is an effort towards assuaging the sentiments of the community in the wake of the recent communal violence in the western parts of the state.
“Obviously it will have impact on the community. Muslims account for 70 per cent of the votes of the SP. The representation has to be in same proportion. It will have positive impact during the coming Lok Sabha elections,” said Iqbal Mehmood soon after taking oath as Cabinet minister. Iqbal represents Sambhal constituency.