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Another Mayavati shuffle

Lucknow, April 20: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati will effect the third Cabinet reshuffle in a month tomorrow to accommodate two Apna Dal MLAs who have defected to the Bahujan Samaj Party.

However, the BJP — the BSP’s coalition partner in the state — clarified that there would be no change in its representation in the ministry as the exercise would be confined to Mayavati’s party.

The BJP leadership was planning to drop some of its “non-performing” ministers from Mayavati’s team. But the sense of disquiet in the party after the recent Samajwadi Party-BSP spat prompted the leadership to shelve the idea.

BJP sources said the leadership had planned to replace Ram Prakash Tripathi (cooperatives), Ravi Gautam (revenue) and Rajesh Agarwal (trade tax), but the move was dropped for fear of spurring a new wave of dissidence.

The induction in the ministry of the two MLAs who have defected from the Apna Dal will raise to 110 the number of BSP MLAs in Uttar Pradesh. Of these, 10 are defectors (Congress seven, Apna Dal two and Rashtriya Parivartan Party one) and have been awarded with a ministerial berth.

Mayavati is expected to drop some BSP ministers to make room for the defectors from Apna Dal, indicated close sources.

“Some of the existing ministers might also be upgraded from minister of state to Cabinet rank,” they said.

The chief minister today hinted that she would continue her efforts to lure MLAs from other parties to join the BSP, especially from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. “Our doors are open and many Samajwadi MLAs are in touch with us. We will disclose their identities at the right time,” she said.

The battle between the Samajwadi and the BSP has prompted the Uttar Pradesh BJP unit, which fears it may lose ground in the state because of the tussle, to harp on the Ayodhya issue.

“Artefacts excavated from the disputed site in Ayodhya have indicated the existence of a temple. It is high time the Muslims gave up their claim to the site and allowed a temple to be reconstructed,” asserted BJP state chief Vinay Katiyar said.

The Vishwa Hndu Parishad has also decided to mount pressure on the Centre to hand over the disputed site to the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust. A crucial meeting of the Mandir Nirman Samiti floated by the VHP’s Margadarshak Mandal is to be held in Ayodhya on April 29 to finalise the course of action.

“We were hopeful of getting the undisputed land for starting construction of the temple, but the Supreme Court did not give a favourable ruling. The VHP has now decided not to consult anybody and intensify our agitation. The Ayodhya meet will spell out the next phase of the agitation,” said the VHP’s media in-charge in Ayodhya, Sharad Sharma.

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