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Jumbo team trouble in heartland

Lucknow, Oct. 4: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav today grappled with the challenge of finding work for his ministers, a day after forming a jumbo cabinet to keep everyone happy.

As the Samajwadi Party leader rushed to Delhi to discuss the distribution of portfolios to his team of 30 cabinet ministers and 67 ministers of state, officials in Lucknow struggled to find accommodation for their offices and residences.

The government garage had run out of staff cars for the ministers yesterday itself when Mulayam Singh said — two hours before the swearing-in — that the size of his ministry would be larger than 60 projected earlier.

“We had engaged cars from private travel agencies to meet the shortfall yesterday but have decided to retain most of them till new vehicles can be procured,” an official said.

The jumbo ministry also had the finance department in a tizzy, with officials trying to calculate the cost of such a large cabinet. On an average, a cabinet minister costs the state exchequer Rs 50 lakh per month in perks and amenities alone, said an official. “The monthly bill of a minister of state and his staff is only marginally lower.”

The chief minister’s secretariat was busy throughout, trying to carve out new departments. Major departments have earlier been split when large ministries had been formed during the Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta, Rajnath Singh and Mayavati regimes.

“It’s a tedious exercise and some of the ministers are bound to complain that they have been given little to do,” complains a harried official. He hoped that most of them would be satisfied with the government vehicle and official pomp and would not be concerned about their job profile.

Leader of Opposition Swami Prasad Maurya of the Bahujan Samaj Party said yesterday’s expansion had proved his earlier charge that Mulayam Singh had used money and muscle power to secure defections. “The size and the composition of the ministry shows that the new chief minister is not concerned about the deteriorating financial condition of the state,” alleged the BSP leader.

However, Samajwadi minister Mohammed Azam Khan disputed the opposition charge that large ministries necessarily mean greater strain on the state exchequer. “We will ensure that the total expenditure on this ministry is no more than that incurred by smaller ministries,” asserted the minister.

Sources said Mulayam Singh had initially proposed the names of 56 ministers when he sent his list to governor Vishnu Kant Shastri for approval.

As word spread, Independent legislators, smaller parties like the Rashtriya Kranti Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the CPM and some legislators from breakaway groups, urged the chief minister to include their names in the list. “Two names were included in the list in the last minute,” said a Samajwadi leader.

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