Thursday, March 23, 2023
HomeOpinionModi’s youngest minister Anupriya Patel has a dilemma ahead of elections

Modi’s youngest minister Anupriya Patel has a dilemma ahead of elections

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Being a minister in the BJP government has muted Anupriya Patel, a fiery leader.

When BJP’s Amit Shah allied with Anupriya Patel’s party Apna Dal(S) in 2014, it was hailed as a coup to carve out a dedicated OBC vote base in Uttar Pradesh. Today, minister Anupriya Patel is unhappy with the BJP leadership—and she is not hiding her discontent.

Her party has taken a position that till ‘their demands’ are met and their ‘prestige restored’, Patel will not attend any state government function in Uttar Pradesh.

Despite the efforts of BJP’s top leaders, who sought to convince her, she refused to attend the public rally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur last week, not far away from her Lok Sabha constituency.

Anupriya Patel is the Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, but she has not been assigned any significant work. All the decisions of the ministry are taken by the Cabinet minister, JP Nadda or the Minister of State, Ashwini Kumar Chaubey.

Also read: What did OBC Narendra Modi do for the OBCs?

So, Patel sits in her sprawling office at Nirman Bhawan without being part of any decision-making process in the ministry. Her office sends recommendation letters for the treatment of patients to various central government hospitals. But even the hospitals only listen to Nadda, the real boss in the ministry.

The youngest and one of the most articulate members of the council of ministers, Anupriya Patel spends her time inaugurating technical seminars, giving keynote speeches, holding discussions with foreign delegations and receiving foreign prime ministers and heads of states at the airport on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

She is also deputed, at times, to defend the government on various issues in and outside Parliament.

So, who is the real Anupriya Patel?

She is a new entrant in the Delhi power circuit. Old time UP watchers know her as the daughter of prominent Kurmi caste leader Sone Lal Patel, who was one of the lieutenants of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshiram.

Later, they parted ways. After quitting the BSP, Sone Lal Patel founded Apna Dal. But this party failed to give him any electoral dividend, and he never won any election. He died in a road accident in 2009.

It was at the memorial meeting for her father that Anupriya Patel delivered her first life-changing political speech. That speech caught the attention of her father’s Kurmi supporters. A new leader was born.

Leading from the margins

She won her first electoral battle in 2012 and became MLA from Rohania constituency. This constituency is part of the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat from where Narendra Modi is an MP.

This gave her leverage in the politics.

BJP aligned with Apna Dal keeping this in the mind, besides the fact that the Kurmis play an important role in the electoral arithmetic of the region. Other than Yadavs, Kurmis are the most prominent OBC group in UP.

This explains her rise in national politics and why the BJP wooed her with a ministry, leaving several senior BJP leaders behind. She was allotted a big bungalow in the Lutyens’ zone, which is unusual for a first-time MP.

Anupriya Patel also benefitted from the fact that post UPA-2, OBC politics was at the forefront. The OBC commission has become a constitutional body and India is going to have OBC enumeration in its decadal census for the first time after independence.

Also read: Modi’s new vote: Sub-categorisation set to bring OBCs into BJP fold

Most importantly, Narendra Modi himself wears his OBC identity on his sleeve. In his election rallies, he has often said that he is the son of a backward family, or belongs to a ‘Neech Jati’ (lower caste).

This is the politics of the times. Even the grand old party, the Congress, formed an OBC department for the first time in its history.

This has increased the bargaining power of a leader like Anupriya Patel. She is uniquely positioned to extract her pound of flesh—and she is doing it with a vengeance. During the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2017, she put her foot down and finally got 11 seats to contest. Her party won nine of them. She bargained for the position of minister and got her wish.

Anupriya Patel might be a new entrant to the Delhi power circuit, but her association with the capital is not new. After completing her school education in Kanpur, she got her undergraduate degree from Lady Shriram College in Delhi. She then studied for her graduate course at Noida’s Amity University, and got an MBA from an institution in Kanpur.

Her father wanted all his four daughters to attain good education, and kept them away from party politics.

Anupriya Patel continued her father’s legacy as a fighter for social justice. In 2013, she led the OBC youth, who were agitating for the continuation of the three-tier reservation policy in UPSC.

She was arrested on several occasions and have cases lodged against her owing to her stand.

She never fails to raise the issue of reservation, representation and social justice.

Also read: Census 2021 must ask every Indian their caste, not just OBCs

She also spoke in favour of the caste census and called for a more rigorous implementation of reservation policies. Her party has demanded that there be diversity in appointments to police stations in UP, a separate ministry for the welfare of the OBCs, and reservation in the judiciary.

But of late, being a minister in the BJP government has muted her. She has lost the image of a fiery leader. She knows the balancing act—of being a Modi government minister and a fiery leader—is not going to be easy in the long run.

This dilemma will prey on her mind when she decides on political alliances in the 2019 general elections.

The author is a senior journalist.

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  1. If the BSP and the SP – with the RLD and with or without the Congress – forge a durable partnership, that would create another tsunami in Uttar Pradesh. A small entity like the Apna Dal would be unable to stand in its way. 2. Ministers of State not having any useful work to do is unfortunately an integral part of Indian politics, in both the Centre and the states. In Maharashtra, when Chagan Bhujbal was housing minister, his deputy told CM Sharad Pawar, My job is only to answer questions in the Assembly.

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