Raja Bhaiyya back in Akhilesh cabinet

Lucknow, Oct 11 (IANS) Independent legislator Raghuraj Pratap Singh, better known as Raja Bhaiyya, was Friday sworn as a cabinet minister by UP Governor B.L. Joshi.

Raja Bhaiyya had resigned March after he was named in the first information report (FIR) of deputy superintendent of police Zia-ul-Haq's murder in Pratapgarh.

He was sworn-in in presence of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, senior ministers Azam Khan, Shivpal Singh Yadav, Ahmad Hasan and Ambika Chowdhary.

While Raja Bhaiyya was given a clean chit in the murder case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a few months back and it was anticipated that he would be inducted in the cabinet in the July reshuffle, Akhilesh Yadav cold shouldered him.

Media reports recently hinted that the legislator from Kunda was inching closer to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Raja Bhaiyya denied this.

He has been close to BJP national president Rajnath Singh and has served under him as a minister when the latter was UP chief minister.

Raja Bhaiyya has served as minister in the cabinet of Kalyan Singh and Ram Prakash Gupta - both BJP chief ministers. The move to reinduct the Kunda legislator is also seen as a move by the Samajwadi Party leadership to quell the growing dissatisfaction among the Thakurs.

Talking to reporters after being sworn in, Raja Bhaiyya said he was pleased that he is back in the ministry and thanked chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for their "sneh aur vishwas (love and trust)".

He also said he had always maintained that he had nothing to do with the murder of the police official and had in fact volunteered to undergo a polygraph test. He came out clean in the lie detector test.

Reacting to the re-induction of Raja Bhaiyya into the Akhilesh cabinet, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Laxmikant Bajyai said it was an internal matter of SP.

He, however, added that the SP had not done any favour to Raja Bhaiya.

"He was named in a murder case and was found to be innocent in the case by the investigative agencies and hence it is a natural process that is being followed," he added.

Akhilesh Pratap Singh, spokesman of the state Congress, said: "It would be better that the state government focussed on governance rather than reshuffles of its ministry."

"This criminal-friendly government should focus on governance and development...," he added.

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