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Monday, June 10, 2024

How did PM Modi manage UP politics through the cabinet, why did he have to settle for caste arithmetic

 


Modi 3.O Cabinet: After the BJP suffered a setback in Uttar Pradesh in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, the state's representation in the new Union Council of Ministers has come down to 9 from 14 in the current government. The 71-member new Council of Ministers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has seven members from the BJP, while two are from its alliance partners - Jayant Chaudhary of RLD and Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (S).

However, in view of the shift of OBC and Dalit votes towards the opposition Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance in the elections and the resentment of a section of Thakur leaders, the BJP has tried to maintain caste balance in the allocation of ministers. 

Representation of UP in the cabinet decreased

Of the nine ministers, three are OBC leaders - Lodhi leader BL Verma from Badaun, Kurmi leader Pankaj Choudhary (Maharajganj) and Anupriya Patel (Mirzapur). Two are Dalit leaders - SP Singh Baghel (Agra) and Kamlesh Paswan (Bansgaon). Jitin Prasada, a minister in the UP government who won from Pilibhit, is the only Brahmin face from UP. Two are Thakur leaders - party veteran Rajnath Singh (Lucknow) and the surprise debut of Kirti Vardhan Singh alias Raja Bhaiya from Gonda. Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Choudhary is a Jat leader. 

The inclusion of Raja Bhaiya is being seen as an attempt by the BJP to create a balance of power in Gonda, while Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has influence in the region. Brij Bhushan Singh, who is facing allegations of sexual harassment from women wrestlers, did not contest the election this time. Instead, his son Karan Bhushan Singh contested from Gonda and won. In terms of cabinet posts, Rajnath Singh is the only cabinet minister from UP this time. In the current government, there were three cabinet-rank ministers from UP - Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani and Mahendra Nath Pandey.

This time there is one MoS (Independent Charge) - Jayant Chaudhary. The remaining seven are ministers of state. Of the 13 ministers in the previous government, 11 contested the elections, but only four won. All four - Rajnath, Anupriya, Baghel and DL Verma - have been retained.

Rajnath Singh, 72, cabinet minister

BJP stalwart Rajnath Singh was the second leader to take oath after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday. Singh, who handled important ministries like Home and Defence in the two tenures of the Modi government, has been elected to the Lok Sabha for the fourth time. He was elected MP from Ghaziabad in 2009 and has been representing Lucknow in Parliament since 2014. He was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh from 2000 to 2002. He was also a cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. When the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014, he was the national president of the BJP.

Jayant Chaudhary, 45, minister of state (independent charge)

Jayant, a Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh, is the grandson of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh and son of former Union Minister Ajit Singh. Making his debut in the Union Cabinet, he has been made Minister of State (Independent Charge).

Jayant took over the command of his party Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) after the death of his father Ajit Singh in 2021.

The RLD, which won nine seats in alliance with the Samajwadi Party in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, was part of the opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam till February this year. However, he left the party and joined the BJP-led NDA just before the elections after the central government awarded Bharat Ratna to Chaudhary Charan Singh. Jayant did not contest the election, but his party candidates Rajkumar Sangwan and Chandan Chauhan contested and won from two seats, Baghpat and Bijnor respectively.

The party's victory in both the seats is being seen as a revival of the party after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots as it had failed to win a single seat in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Jitin Prasada, 50, minister of state

Prasad, a cabinet minister in the Yogi Adityanath government, was one of the youngest ministers in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government. A decade later, he has returned to the Union Cabinet as the BJP's Brahmin face from UP.

Prasad, a two-time MP, Union minister and a sitting minister in the UP government, defeated Bhagwat Saran Gangwar, a former five-time MLA of the Samajwadi Party (SP), in a close contest in this year’s assembly election from Pilibhit, a seat contested by either Maneka Gandhi or Varun Gandhi.

Prasad, once considered close to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, started his political career with Rahul in 2004. He has previously represented Shahjahanpur and Dhaurara constituencies of Uttar Pradesh.

Prasad, who became an MP for the first time at the age of 31, was one of the youngest ministers in the UPA government in 2008. Educated at Delhi's Shri Ram College of Commerce and International Management Institute, Prasad represented important ministries like Steel and Petroleum during the UPA I and UPA II governments.

He formed Brahmin Chetna Party He formed the Brahmin Chetna Parishad and travelled across UP in 2020 to raise his voice against the alleged atrocities on Brahmins during the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP government and has been vocal about the issues faced by the community.

He broke ties with the Congress in 2021 and joined the BJP. He was made a cabinet minister in the UP government and took over the PWD portfolio. When the BJP government returned to power in UP again in 2022, Prasad retained his ministerial position and continued to serve as a member of the Legislative Council. For the first time, PM Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Pilibhit in support of Prasad, who won by a margin of over 1.6 lakh votes.

Pankaj Choudhary, 50, minister of state

Chaudhary, a seven-time MP from Maharajganj, was Minister of State (Finance) in the previous government. He belongs to the OBC Kurmi community, which has a significant presence in areas of central and eastern UP. Chaudhary, who belongs to Gorakhpur district, started his political career as a councilor in the Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation in the late 80s. He became the deputy mayor of Gorakhpur. He made his Lok Sabha debut in 1991 and became a Union minister in the Modi government in 2021 ahead of the 2022 UP assembly elections. In this election, he had a close contest with Congress MLA Virendra Chaudhary and won by a narrow margin of about 35,000 votes.

Anupriya Patel, 43, minister of state

Anupriya, who had to suddenly take over the reins of her party Apna Dal (S) after the death of her father and popular Kurmi leader Sone Lal Patel, has been a constant ally of the BJP since 2014, when Narendra Modi led the BJP to its first victory at the Centre.

Now, Anupriya, a three-time MP from Mirzapur, has been a minister (minister of state) in both the previous governments of PM Modi. She served as MoS (Health and Family Welfare) from 2016 to 2019 in the first term. In the second term of the Modi government, she was inducted into the council of ministers ahead of the 2022 UP elections and made MoS (Commerce and Industry).

An MBA graduate, Anupriya was a teacher. In 2012, she was elected MLA for the first time from Rohania constituency in Varanasi. Her husband Ashish Patel is a minister in the UP government. Among the NDA alliance partners in UP, Apna Dal (S) has the highest number of 13 MLAs.

In Varanasi as well as surrounding areas, her party has significant clout among the Patel community. Anupriya's father Sone Lal Patel was among the founding members of the BSP in 1984 and launched his own party - Apna Dal - in 1995. He died in 2009. In 2016, Apna Dal split into two factions after a dispute between Anupriya and her mother Krishna Patel, who now heads the Apna Dal (Kamerawadi). Both factions of Apna Dal have support from the Kurmis as well as non-Yadav OBC communities.

BL Verma, 62, minister of state

Considered an organisational leader within the BJP, Verma has served in various positions within party units over the decades – from the BJP Yuva Morcha to the UP unit and the National OBC Morcha.

Verma belongs to the OBC Lodhi community and was once considered close to former chief minister Kalyan Singh. Hailing from Badaun district in western UP, Verma wields considerable influence in his community, which has a sizeable presence in areas like Aligarh and Etah.

He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2020 and is still in the Upper House. Ahead of the 2022 UP assembly elections, he was made a Union minister along with six others from the state. He was MoS (Development of North Eastern Region) in the first term of the Modi government and MoS (Cooperation) in the second term. He is also the national vice-president of the BJP's OBC Morcha. SP Singh Baghel, 63 Baghel, who started his political career as a Samajwadi Party leader, has been a five-time MP.

He won three times as a Samajwadi Party MP from 1998 to 2009, while in 2010 he was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a BSP ticket when the BSP was in power in the state. Later, he joined the BJP and became the party's MLA from Tundla assembly constituency in 2017. He was made a cabinet minister in the Yogi Adityanath-led government in the state. Later, he contested as a BJP candidate from Agra and won for the first time in 2019. He was made the Minister of Law and Justice during the 2021 cabinet expansion.

While Baghel's caste has been a matter of controversy in the past, he is considered the Dalit face of the party and contested the Agra (SC-reserved) Lok Sabha seat. In this election, Baghel won by a huge margin of over 2.71 lakh votes.

Kirti Vardhan Singh, 58, minister of state

A five-time MP, Singh, also known as Raja Bhaiya, is the Thakur face in the UP cabinet along with Rajnath Singh. Like Baghel, he too began his political career with the Samajwadi Party and joined the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. After winning the Gonda constituency by a margin of over 1.6 lakh votes last time, his margin came down to around 47,000 votes this time.

He comes from the royal family of Mankapur. His father Anand Singh was a Congress MP and MLA from Gonda.

58-year-old Singh has an MSc in Geology from Lucknow University. He was also a member of the UP Legislative Assembly and was the Agriculture Minister in the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP government in UP from 2012 to 2017.

Kamlesh Paswan, 47, minister of state

The induction of Paswan, a four-time MP from Bansgaon constituency and belonging to the Pasi community among Dalits, into the BJP is being seen as an attempt by the BJP to woo Dalits in eastern UP. Paswan has previously been an MLA from the SP, while his younger brother Vimlesh is currently a two-time BJP MLA from Gorakhpur's Bangaon assembly seat.

Paswan, who won by a margin of over 1.5 lakh votes in the last Lok Sabha elections, defeated Congress' Sadal Prasad by a margin of just 3,100 votes this time. The Congress is considering appealing to the Election Commission for a recount in Bansgaon.

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