Lucknow, Oct. 3: Chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav today fell two short of a century as he gifted Uttar Pradesh the country’s largest-ever ministry.
Ministers climbed on to the dais in herds for the collective swearing-in at the K.D. Singh Stadium, where the “let-everyone-go-back-happy” spirit prevailed.
The journey to the stadium was not as smooth though, with the government running short of the regulation Ambassador cars for the would-be ministers. “We had to hire over 60 private vehicles to accommodate them,” an estate department official said.
Mulayam Singh’s move goes against a political commitment to limit the size of ministries to 15 per cent of the strength of Parliament and the state legislatures. A bill to this effect is to come up in the winter session. The combined strength of the two Houses of legislature in Uttar Pradesh is about 500.
The decision also took his friends by surprise. “In view of the Samajwadi Party chief’s political compulsions, nobody could have expected a small ministry. But none of us believed that he would decide to lead the largest ever ministry in the state,” state Congress spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh said.
Kalyan Singh’s 93-member ministry had been the largest till date. The then BJP chief minister had inducted every member of the breakaway Congress and BSP groups. The last Mayavati government had 72 ministers.
Mulayam Singh has found place for all the BSP defectors except Amarmani Tripathi, who is in CBI custody over the murder of poet Madhumita Shukla.
Most of the 20 Independent MLAs who deserted Mayavati have also been rewarded. Raghuraj Pratap Singh — in jail till the Kanpur special court allows the state government’s application to revoke the anti-terror law against him — is not yet in. But mafia dons Hari Shankar Tewari and Raja Ram Pande, who have a long list of criminal cases against them, are.
Political sources said Mulayam Singh inducted them because they are Brahmins. “He wants to send the message that he will look after the interests of Brahmins also,” a source said.
Finding work for all 97 ministers is not going to be easy. None has been allocated a portfolio yet. “A decision about the work distribution would be taken soon after consultation with my colleagues and allies,” was all Mulayam Singh said when pressed.
Even the largest ministry in the country might not be enough to keep everyone happy. Mulayam Singh has lost no time in sending out the message that his government has some more cushy jobs for those who could not be accommodated today.
Immediately after the swearing-in, state Samajwadi chief Ram Saran Das was appointed vice-chairman of the state planning board and former BSP minister Kazim Ali was appointed chairman of the state tourism board. Both positions are equivalent to cabinet minister.
A state official said: “There are at least 45 such autonomous corporations, where he can accommodate favoured politicians.”
The disappointment of Congress legislators has increased because today’s exercise ruled out another expansion in the near future to accommodate them if and when Sonia Gandhi agrees to their participation in the government. The Congress is supporting the government from outside.
Of the 91 ministers sworn in today, 24 were of cabinet rank and 67 were ministers of state. Six cabinet ministers were inducted on September 6, less than a week after Mulayam Singh took over as chief minister on August 29.