Uttar Pradesh: BJP picks new election team, aims to strike caste balance

The new election team combines an interesting caste mix for the polls at a time when the opposition is wooing various caste groups in Uttar Pradesh
The BJP has named the new team about six months ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, which is due early next year. (PICTURE FOR REPRESENTATION)
The BJP has named the new team about six months ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, which is due early next year. (PICTURE FOR REPRESENTATION)
Published on Sep 08, 2021 11:46 PM IST
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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership on Wednesday put into effect Mission UP 2022, appointing a new election team headed by Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, an Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader from Odisha, for Uttar Pradesh where the assembly election is due early next year.

The new election panel described by a BJP leader as “Team Modi in UP” also combines an interesting caste mix for the polls. The team headed by an OBC, has a Dalit, a Rajput, a Vokkaliga, a Bhumihar, a Brahmin, Yadav and a Jat.

While playing on the perceived neglect of the community, various opposition parties have been wooing Brahmins. Yadavs are considered loyal to the Samajwadi Party, the state’s main opposition party.

As for the Jats, the ongoing farmers’ protest against the Centre’s three new farm reform laws mainly comprises Jats, party leaders admitted.

The appointment of the new election panel also coincided with the resignation of Uttarakhand governor Baby Rani Maurya, a Dalit leader from Agra in Uttar Pradesh, two years ahead of the closure of her five-year gubernatorial term.

BJP leaders indicated that she could be given some key political assignment in UP. Suspense is rife about her new role, especially with four names for MLCs yet to be declared and a possible ministry expansion of the Yogi Adityanath government still on the cards.

The BJP’s new UP panel has Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, a Dalit from Rajasthan, Anurag Thakur, a Rajput from Himachal Pradesh, Saroj Pandey, a woman Brahmin leader from Chhattisgarh, Shobha Karandlaje, a woman leader belonging to the Vokkaliga (upper caste) from Karnataka, Rajya Sabha member Vivek Thakur, son of party veteran from Bihar CP Thakur, a Bhumihar, former Haryana minister Captain Abhimanyu, a Jat, and Annapurna Devi, a Yadav.

“Captain Abhimanyu, a member of the UP election panel is a Jat who has relationships in western UP. In Vivek Thakur, we have a Bhumihar leader. While the community may just have about 2 per cent vote bank, it has sizeable pockets of influence in eastern UP. As luck would have it after the appointment of Manoj Sinha as the lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir, we just have Surya Pratap Shahi, the agriculture minister of UP, as a Bhumihar face so the new appointment is just right,” a BJP leader said. “It does appear to be a caste bouquet for a state due for elections and where caste matters have a huge impact. But mind you, these leaders are not just about caste for together they pack great experience and expertise,” said Irshad Ilmi, a veteran journalist.

When asked if Baby Rani Maurya’s resignation as Uttarakhand governor and the likelihood of her assuming an active role in politics came as a surprise, a BJP leader said, “That’s the beauty of the new BJP. Such surprises have become routine now and it’s difficult to pick the party leadership’s mind.”

“You may recall in 2019 the BJP leadership had got Phagu Chauhan, six- term lawmaker from Ghosi assembly constituency in eastern UP, to quit as MLA and appointed him as Bihar governor ahead of the assembly polls in the neighbouring state. In Babyji’s case, it could well be a case of a governor quitting for re-entry into active politics,” a party leader said.

Baby Rani Maurya had unsuccessfully contested the assembly election from Etmadpur seat in Agra in 2007.

The BJP also named in-charges for all six organisational regions of UP. Lok Sabha MP Sanjay Bhatia has been put in charge of western UP. Bihar lawmaker Sanjeev Chaurasia will look after the Braj region. National secretary Satya Kumar will be in charge of the Awadh region. The BJP’s national co-treasurer Sudhir Gupta has been made in charge of Kanpur region. The Gorakhpur region in charge is national secretary Arvind Menon and Sunil Ojha would look after the Kashi region.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021