India

PM balances caste aspirations and performance in U.P.


Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rajnath Singh takes oath as Cabinet Minister in the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, during the swearing-in ceremony at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi on June 9.
| Photo Credit: ANI

In his choices from Uttar Pradesh where the party lost the plot for a clear majority, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has woven continuity into the aspirations of different caste groups to make up for the losses. Apart from Mr. Modi, nine Ministers from the State were sworn in. Rajnath Singh is the lone Cabinet Minister from the State if one doesn’t count Hardeep Singh Puri who hails from Punjab but represents U.P. in the Rajya Sabha.

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RJD) chief Chaudhary Jayant Singh debuted in the Council of Ministers as the Minister of State with Independent Charge. A sworn rival for almost a decade, RLD joined the NDA just before the election after the BJP government conferred Bharat Ratna on Chaudhary Charan Singh and the party won both the seats it contested. The Rajya Sabha member’s father Chaudhary Ajit Singh held the Agriculture Ministry in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

The other new faces include Jitin Prasada, the Pilibhit MP who was a Minister in the State government and had also served in the Manmohan Singh government when he was with the Congress. Four-time MP Kamlesh Paswan from Bansgaon (reserved seat) is emerging as the party’s Dalit face and three-time Gonda MP Kirti Vardhan Singh has been waiting in the wings for a while.

Apart from Mr. Rajnath Singh, S.P.S. Baghel, Pankaj Chaudhary, B.L. Verma and Anupriya Patel of ally Apna Dal (Sonewal) held on to their berths. Sources say the Ministers have been rewarded for performing without seeking undue limelight.

The focus is on promoting non-Jatav Dalits and non-Yadav Other Backward Class (OBC) caste groups where the INDIA alliance made a dent this time. By roping in RLD, the PM is addressing the Jats and farmers in west and central UP. With Sanjeev Balyan losing his seat and BJP State President Bhupendra Chaudhary’s influence blighted by the poor results, it seems the party has given the keys of the west to Mr. Jayant to keep him away from the overtures of the Opposition.

Ms. Patel and Mr. Pankaj Chaudhary, who scraped through this time with depleted margins, hail from the Kurmi community that is present in large numbers in Purvanchal.

Mr. Verma, a Rajya Sabha member, represents the Lodhi segment that populates west and central U.P. After the demise of Kalyan Singh, the community is looking for political patronage. Two-time Agra MP Mr. Baghel and Mr. Paswan come from the shepherd and Pasi communities respectively which were under SP’s radar this time.

Among the upper castes, apart from Mr. Rajnath Singh, Gonda MP Mr. Kirti Vardhan has been brought in to pacify the Rajputs whose discontent posed problems for the ruling party. Mr. Prasada is the lone Brahmin face.

In the outgoing Cabinet, there were 11 Ministers from UP. While seven of them lost their seats, four managed to hold on to their seats. Out of the four, only Mr. Baghel managed to increase his victory margin.



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