Thursday, 27 January, 2022
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Four factors Yogi Adityanath had in mind before picking his seven new cabinet ministers

For Yogi Adityanath, each new cabinet minister serves a purpose — Jitin Prasada to Chhatrapal Gangwar.

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When Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced his cabinet expansion, in all possibility the last one before assembly election early next year, he had four factors to worry about—maintaining regional balance, placating new BJP entrants, furthering social engineering and carving out newer constituencies.

Yogi Adityanath inducted seven new faces — Jitin Prasada, Sangeeta Balwant, Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, Dinesh Khatik, Sanjeev Kumar alias Sanjay Gond, Dharamveer Prajapati and Paltu Ram. Barring former Union minister and ex-Congress leader Jitin Prasada, all others have been given the rank of a State minister.

Also read: Yogi expands his Cabinet, but still keeps SC/STs away from real power

Regional balance

Uttar Pradesh is largely categorised in five sub-regions — western Uttar Pradesh, Ruhelkhand, Awadh, Poorvanchal, and Bundelkhand. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has ensured to include leaders from all these regions. Dharamveer Prajapti (Agra) and Dinesh Khatik (Meerut) are from western Uttar Pradesh; Chhatrapal Gangwar (Bareilly) from Ruhelkhand; Jitin Prasada (Shahjahanpur) and Palturam (Gonda) from Awadh; Sangeeta Balwant (Ghazipur) from Purvanchal, and Sanjeev Kumar alias Sanjay Gond (Sonbhadra) from Bundelkhand.

Also read: Why Congress lost Brahmin faces in UP, from Rita Bahuguna to Jitin Prasada & Lalitesh Tripathi

Placating opposition Leaders

The induction of Jitin Prasada shows the party did not want to leave any stone unturned in consolidating its upper caste support base. Prasada had launched a campaign of Brahmin youths against the Yogi government, claiming Brahmin marginalisation. In addition to Pramod Tiwary, Jitin Prasada was the Brahmin face of Congress in Uttar Pradesh. His growing popularity among Brahmin youths might have harmed the BJP in near future.

Through a similar strategy, the party had inducted powerful backward caste leaders in the past — Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan, Narendra Kashyap, and SP Singh Baghel — from rival parties Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party. Their induction is argued to have brought the backward caste voters into the BJP fold.

Also read: Yogi ministry expansion an exercise in social engineering, Jitin Prasada gets cabinet rank

Social engineering

An overview of social profiles of the newly inducted ministers reveals that the BJP has taken a step ahead in designing its social engineering. Out of the seven new faces, three belong to Backward Castes, two are Scheduled Castes, and one Scheduled Tribe. Chhatrapal Gangwar’s inclusion is an attempt to send a pacifying message to the Kurmi caste of Bareilly region — purportedly angry due to the removal of Santosh Gangwar from the Narendra Modi cabinet.

Two other Backward Caste ministers inducted belong to communities that are politically marginalised. Over the last two decades, the BJP has been successful in creating a discourse within the Backward Castes—of dominant versus non-dominant sections. The dominant Backward Castes essentially are communities that are politically powerful. Apart from the sphere of politics, castes can be ritually and materially dominant. The BJP’s mobilisation pattern has been to promote politically marginalised Backward Castes and Dalits against politically dominant Backward Castes.

This strategy, however, remains largely away from the glare of political commentary because of the party’s Hindutva overdrive. This has led to the BJP moving away from mobilising Backward Castes through their identities as OBCs, Bahujans or Dalits, and on to individual caste appeasement. The party also seems to be messaging these voters that ‘under the BJP government, the growth of politically dominant castes has decelerated.’

Also read: Eye on Purvanchal, BJP ties up with Nishad Party for 2022 UP assembly election

Carving out new constituencies  

The induction of Sanjeev Kumar alias Sanjay Gond as State minister indicates that the BJP is seeing a rich dividend in the tribal community. Though UP does not have a significant tribal population and their presence is scattered. Prominent tribes are Tharu, Gond, Kharwar etc. Gond and its sub castes Dhuria, Nayak, Ojha, Pathari, Raj Gond are enlisted as Scheduled Tribes in the districts of Maharajganj, Sidharth Nagar, Basti, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Mau, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Balia, Gazipur, Varanasi, Mirzapur and Sonbhadra. However, in other districts, these same castes have been listed under the Scheduled Castes category. The BJP had promised way back in 2002 that Gond and its sub caste would be included in the ST list throughout Uttar Pradesh. An attempt was also made but the Allahabad High Court stayed the process.

The BJP has a strategy of getting the support of this social group throughout Uttar Pradesh. Hence, to mobilise this community, the party has launched an ST wing in the state under the chairmanship of Dr. Sanjay Gond. In fact, the BJP is the only party in UP that has a separate ST wing.

Also read: Mihira Bhoja was a Rajput, word Gurjar didn’t exist at the time, Karni Sena founder says

Descriptive over substantive representative

An overall analysis of the social profile of Yogi Adityanath’s ministers, after this expansion, reveals that the BJP has adopted the strategy of providing descriptive representation to Dalit and the Backward Castes, rather than providing them substantive representation. Yogi Adityanath inducted them but only as State ministers who hardly have a say in decision making.

The cabinet expansion was speculated to bring some surprise changes — there was buzz that Narendra Modi’s trusted bureaucrat Arvind Sharma and a Dalit leader could be nominated as deputy chief minister. The names Krishna Raj, Laxman Acharya and Baby Rani Mauraya were doing rounds in Lucknow. Their non-inclusion shows Yogi Adityanath’s strong hold over the composition and structure of his cabinet, without deviating from the macro strategy of the party.

Read Arvind Kumar’s article on the caste composition of Yogi Adityanath’s UP Cabinet.

Arvind Kumar (@arvind_kumar__), PhD Scholar, Royal Holloway, University of London. Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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