Former Congress leader Jitin Prasada, side-lined Brahmin leader Laxmikant Bajpai and AK Sharma, a close confidante of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are among faces being considered for a cabinet expansion in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP is keen to balance its caste equation ahead of elections due in about six months, sources have told NDTV.
Besides the three contenders from the Brahmin community, which the BJP is believed to be wooing ahead of the elections, two to three figures from other communities such Sanjay Nishad, a key ally of the BJP in UP, may also be considered, sources said.
There have been reports of growing discontent among the Brahmin community in Uttar Pradesh who have been feeling neglected. The BJP is also trying to appease the non-Yadav Other Backward Classes and non-Jatav Scheduled Castes which backed the party in the last three elections.
The decision was taken at a 3.5-hour meeting hosted by Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence on Thursday that was attended by BJP Chief JP Nadda, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and senior party functionaries Sunil Bansal and Swatantra Dev Singh.
According to sources, the top leadership of the BJP has cleared the last cabinet reshuffle ahead of the elections. At 53 ministers, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet can accommodate seven more before it hits the limit of 60.
Besides the decision on the cabinet expansion at Amit Shah's meeting, emphasis was also laid on taking allies along - another hot-button topic for the party given the murmurs against the Chief Minister within the party ahead of the state elections.
Earlier this year, sources said the party was concerned over the feedback it received from various quarters indicating the Chief Minister's inability to take everyone along.
For long, allies have been critical of the Chief Minister's lack of accessibility to MPs and MLAs. The government's handling of the Covid pandemic -- which many feared has deeply upset the electorate - brought the differences out in the open.
The party finally reached out to allies in Uttar Pradesh -- Apna Dal and Nishad Samaj - and gave a central ministry berth to Apna Dal.