The NDA government at the Centre saw a cabinet rejig on Tuesday (July 5) whereby three fresh faces from poll-bound Uttar Pradesh were inducted into the Council of Ministers. The three are Chandauli MP Mahendra Pandey (Brahmin), Shahjahanpur MP Krishna Raj (Dalit) and Mirzapur MP Anupriya Patel (Kurmi-OBC). All the three MPs are first-timers.
The move to increase the number of parliamentarians from UP as ministers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to convey the message that the BJP has not forgotten the state's blessings even after two years of that dream performance there. [Five dropped from PM Modi's ministerial council]
The saffron party certainly has the challenge of constantly finding new leaders (a number of legislators were fielded as candidates during the Lok Sabha election in 2014 and after they won riding the Modi wave, new leaders had to be fielded for the Assembly seat bypolls) but that hasn't barred its top leadership.
Modi has put a special emphasis on the UP election due to be held early next year for its results will be seen as the semi-final ahead of the big battle: the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Besides launching social schemes and appealing to the people as a "UP wala", Modi has chosen to highlight UP's cause at major occasions. [Modi also eyed Gujarat polls 2017 through Cabinet rejig]
And now, induction of these three ministers with diverse social status is another step towards that goal. In fact, the latest round of rejig has ensured that UP has most number of ministers at the Centre than ever before.
The three UP MPs inducted as ministers
Krishna Raj: The induction of Krishna Raj has been aimed at pulling the Dalit votes to the BJP to repeat the performance of 2014. The BSP, which is more a first preference of the Dalits, is facing a crisis due to the defection of RK Chaudhary and SP Maurya of late. It could be the opportunity for Krishna Raj, a post-graduate and a businessperson from Shahjahanpur---a reserved constituency. [Krishna Raj: BJP's Dalit face in UP]
She was earlier an MLA from Mohammadi in 1996 and 2007 but lost the 2012 election from Kasta. Besides inducting Krishna Raj, the BJP is also considering bringing Ram Shanker Katheria, a minister for state for HRD and also a Dalit MP from Agra who was dropped in Tuesday's rejig, back to boost the party organisation ahead of the big poll.
Anupriya Patel: Daughter of late Kurmi leader Sone Lal Patel, Anupriya contested her maiden Assembly election from Rohaniya in Varanasi in 2012 for the Apna Dal---the party founded by her father. In 2014, Anupriya Patel helped her party grab the headlines by winning two seats in UP in alliance with the BJP.
A graduate from Lady Sri Ram College of Delhi University, Anupriya had vacated the Rohaniya Assembly seat after winning the 2014 poll. However, her mother Krishna Patel failed to win the seat in the 2014 bypolls. Rohaniya falls under Modi's constituency---Varanasi---and BJP president Amit Shah addressed a rally there on July 2 on the occasion of Sone Lal Patel's birth anniversary. [Anupriya: An eloquent pro-Modi voice with OBC roots]
Anupriya's induction is clearly an attempt by the BJP to balance the OBC caste factor in the wake of former Union minister Beni Prasad Verma, a Kurmi, returning to the Samajwadi Party which sent him to the Upper House.
Mahendra Nath Pandey: Pandey induction is an indication that the BJP is also keeping a close watch on tapping the Brahmins---its natural constituency which has, however, failed to produce a big leader since the exit of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. [Mahendra Nath Pandey: BJP's Brahmin face in UP]
The BJP also Pandey is known to be close to both Modi and Shah and through his inclusion, the BJP has tried to woo the Brahmins voters that went towards the BSP in the 2007 and 2012 Assembly elections. Pandey, an MP from Chandauli, is chairperson of the vigilance and monitoring committee of development projects for the Varanasi seat. He has also served as the legislator from Saidpur in 1991 and 1996.