Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections 2017, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav appears to be making final efforts to bolster the image of his government. But there could be more than just image building. While on Monday, Akhilesh had sacked his two high-profile ministers, who were considered close to Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, on Tuesday he replaced UP Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal, who is considered close to Cabinet Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav, with IAS officer Rahul Prasad Bhatnagar of the 1983-batch.
Singhal was removed only two months after he was appointed as the top bureaucrat of the state. He had taken charge on July 6. Before becoming the Chief Secretary, Singhal was holding the post of Principal Secretary in the Irrigation Department — a portfolio held by Shivpal — since the Akhilesh government was formed in 2012. For a short time, he was sent to the Home Department but called back to the Irrigation department after two weeks.
The Indian Express quoted an SP leader as saying that Singhal’s removal may add to the differences between Akhilesh and Shivpal.
Earlier on Monday, Akhilesh had sacked Mining Minister Gayatri Prajapati and Panchayati Raj Minister Raj Kishor Singh over corruption charges. Prajapati, a first-time MLA from Amethi, had seen a meteoric rise in the SP government. According to IE, Akhilesh was not happy with Prajapati because he was facing charges of getting kickbacks from illegal mining contracts. Prajapati had earlier denied the allegations. He was also accused of land grab and extortion.
Prajapati was sacked three days after the Allahabad High Court rejected the state government’s plea to withdraw an order for a CBI probe into the alleged illegal mining in the state. On July 28, the court had set a six-week deadline for CBI to conduct the probe, including the role of public officials, according to The HindustanTimes.
Panchayati Raj, Animal Husbandry and Minor Irrigation Minister Raj Kishor Singh was accused of land grab. The state government is also probing an NGO which was set up by Singh’s kin to recruit staff for the Panchayati Raj department.