Firebrand leader Yogi Adityanath on Sunday took charge of Uttar Pradesh as its 21st chief minister, heading a 47-member ministry that included known Hindutva faces and political turncoats.
The oath taking at Smriti Upvan, which marked the return of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power in the country’s most populous state, was watched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, BJP chief ministers besides thousands of cheering supporters.
Governor Ram Naik administered the oath of office and secrecy to Adityanath, a Gorakhpur MP known for his hardline Hindutva views, deputy chief ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma as well as 44 ministers.
Maurya is the state BJP chief and a Lok Sabha member from Phoolpur while Sharma is the Lucknow mayor. There are 22 members of the cabinet, nine ministers of state with independent charge and 13 ministers of state.
Om Prakash Rajbhar, leader of Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, a BJP ally, was also sworn in as a cabinet minister.
The lone Muslim in the ministry is former cricketer Mohsin Raza, who is not a member of the assembly as the BJP did not field any Muslim in the election. Raza is a minister with independent charge. Baldev Olakh, who won from Bilaspur, is the Sikh face of the ministry.
Adityanath, after taking oath, walked over to and sought the blessings of BJP veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi as well as federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Adityanath, 44, was born in Uttarakhand and left his home in 1990 to join the Gorakhnath Math in Gorakhpur. He has been elected from Gorakhpur to the Lok Sabha since 1998.
As celebrations erupted in Adityanath’s native village Panchur in Uttarakhand and Gorakhpur town, Modi congratulated the new chief minister and his team and hoped they will transform Uttar Pradesh into ‘Uttam Pradesh’.
“I have immense confidence that this new team will leave no stone unturned in making UP Uttam Pradesh,” tweeted Modi. “There will be record development… When UP develops, India develops.”
Prominent among the cabinet ministers are veteran BJP legislators Surya Pratap Shahi, Suresh Khanna, a seven-time legislator from Shahjahanpur, Ramapati Shastri, Rajesh Agarwal, a six-term MLA from Bareilly Cantt, Satish Mahana and Satyadeo Pachauri.
Three Lucknow legislators – Brajesh Pathak, Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Ashutosh Tandon – also made it to the cabinet. The fourth Lucknow MLA, Swati Singh, became a minister of state with independent charge.
Political turncoats who contested on BJP ticket and got a place in the ministry included Swamy Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan and Brajesh Pathak (all ex-BJP) and Rita Bahuguna Joshi, a former Congress leader who defeated Mulayam Singh Yadav’s daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav.
Four women – Gulabo Devi, Archana Pandey, Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Swati Singh – are in the government. The BJP gave ticket to 43 women – 32 won.
While seven Thakurs, including the chief minister, were sworn in, eight Brahmins and 17 OBCs and MBCs also found a place in the government. There are seven Dalit and eight Vaishya ministers.
The ministry also includes Suresh Rana, an accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal riots in which 63 people were killed and thousands rendered homeless.
The chief ministers in attendance were N Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), Devendra Phadnavis (Mahrashtra), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh), Sarbananda Sonowal (Asom) and Vijay Rupani (Gujarat).
Cabinet ministers Shrikant Sharma and Sidharth Nath Singh were named the official spokespersons of the new government.
Sending a strong message against corruption on day one, Adityanath asked all his ministers to provide details of their income, moveable and immoveable assets within 15 days.
He gave this direction to his ministers at the first introductory meeting soon after assuming office.”As uprooting corruption is the main agenda of our party, the chief minister in his first introductory meeting with his ministers directed them to give details of their income, moveable and immoveable properties with 15 days to the (party) organisation as well as the secretary (to the chief minister),” cabinet minister Srikant Sharma said.
He added that the chief minister also emphasised on “coordination” between government and the BJP organisation.
On portfolios, Sharma said that no decision has been taken in this regard as of now and the chief minister will decide it later.
Later, Adityanath pledged to work for all sections without bias. Addressing his first press conference after taking oath, he also vowed to end the law and order problems in the state.
In an apparent move to allay fears that he, as a long-time Hindutva icon, might discriminate against the minorities, Adityanath promised there would be no bias for or against anyone. Agriculture, he said, would be made the base for all development work in Uttar Pradesh.
“Our government is fully committed to fulfil the promises made (before the assembly elections).”
“We want to assure the people of UP that our government will take the state on the path of development and prosperity and would do everything that it takes to do so,” he said.