Lucknow: Seven MPs from Uttar Pradesh have been inducted into the Union Council of Ministers as Prime Minister Narendra Modi revamped his team Wednesday effecting a massive reshuffle.
Of the seven, Apna Dal MP from Mirzapur Anupriya Patel is making a comeback to the council after she was removed in 2019.
The other six are BJP MPs and they will be part of the council for the first time. They include Agra MP S.P. Singh Baghel, Mohanlalganj MP Kaushal Kishore, Maharajganj MP Pankaj Chaudhary, Lakhimpur Kheri MP Ajay Mishra, Jalaun MP Bhanu Pratap Verma and Rajya Sabha MP B.L. Verma.
Caste equations appear to have played an important role in their selections, especially given that UP is set for assembly elections in 2022.
Of the seven new ministers, Anupriya Patel, Pankaj Chaudhary and B.L. Verma are OBCs, Baghel, Kaushal Kishore and Bhanu Pratap Verma are Dalits, while Ajay Mishra is a Brahmin.
Eyeing the Kurmi vote
Anupriya Patel and Pankaj Chaudhary are from the Kurmi community, which comprises 10 per cent of UP’s population. The Kurmis are also the second highest OBC demographic in the state, after the Yadavs.
Kurmis play a significant electoral role in a dozen districts including Mirzapur, Prayagraj, Maharajganj and Jaunpur.
Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal, which is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, was previously a minister of state in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare between 2016 and 2019.
She, however, did not find a place in Team Modi after the NDA returned to power in 2019. Sources close to her told ThePrint that Anupriya had been trying hard to get back into the Council of Ministers. She met Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on 10 June to discuss the UP elections and the cabinet expansion.
Pankaj Chaudhary is a BJP veteran and a six-term MP from Maharajganj constituency. He is among the senior BJP leaders to have a stronghold in the Gorakhpur region.
According to the sources, since Santosh Gangwar, another Kurmi leader, has been dropped, Pankaj has been inducted in his place.
B.L. Verma, the 59-year-old Rajya Sabha MP, is the third OBC face from UP. He is of the Lodhi caste and has been the state BJP vice-president since 2018 in UP BJP.
Verma is also considered as a close aide of former CM Kalyan Singh.
In all, OBCs constitute over 40 per cent of UP’s population and are the most important vote-bank in the state.
3 Dalit faces
Kaushal Kishore, the Dalit MP from Mohanlalganj seat in Lucknow district, was among the BJP leaders who had written to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over the lack of beds and oxygen during the second Covid wave.
He had even warned the Lucknow district administration that he would conduct a dharna against them. Kishore is a second term MP.
Kishore joined the BJP in 2014. He was with the Samajwadi Party and had served as a minister of state in the Mulayam Singh Yadav cabinet from 2002 to 2007.
He is a member of the Pasi community, which the BJP has been eyeing as it is a non-Jatav Dalit caste. The Jatavs traditionally back Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party.
“Non-Jatavs who are above 8 per cent of the state’s population are the BJP prime focus among Dalits,” a source close to Kishore said.
Bhanu Pratap Verma, the 63-year-old Jalaun legislator and Dalit face from the Bundelkhand region, is a five-term MP. He is a member of the Kori community and is among the BJP’s senior leaders in UP.
The third Dalit from UP in the council is 61-year-old Agra MP S.P. Singh Baghel, who has earlier served as a cabinet minister in the Yogi government.
Baghel, a five-term MP, has a PhD in Military Science from Chaudhary Charan Singh University in Meerut.
Dalits constitute 20 per cent of UP’s population.
Surprising & lone Brahmin face
The induction of Ajay Kumar Mishra, the Lakhimpur Kheri MP, has surprised UP’s political circles.
Mishra, 60, is the lone Brahmin face from the state and his induction comes at a time the community is up in arms against the Yogi government.
What has surprised political circles here is that the two-term MP is a little known Brahmin face. The BJP has Brahmin heavyweights in Uttar Pradesh such as Satyadev Pachauri, Ramapati Ram Tripathi and Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
Brahmins are 11 per cent of the state’s population.