Modi ministry expansion addresses caste factor with eye to UP polls

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New Delhi, July 5: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday virtually drew out the Bharatiya Janata Party's electoral plan for Uttar Pradesh by inducting three new faces from the state in his council of ministers while dropping one.

Anupriya Patel, Apna Dal MP from Mirzapur and a prominent Kurmi leader, was among the newly inducted ministers besides Mahendra Nath Pandey, lawmaker from Chandauli, and Krishna Raj, Lok Sabha member from Shahjahanpur.

Cabinet rezig addresses caste factor

In Tuesday's ministerial expansion, a right caste synthesis has been attempted with efforts to reach out to the Kurmis, Brahmins and Dalits from Uttar Pradesh.

Modi now has 15 ministers from the state besides himself representing the prestigious Varanasi parliamentary constituency.

Even as the BJP leadership tried hard to sell the idea that no caste factor worked in Tuesday's expansion of the Modi ministry, there was a clear emphasis on the caste equation as Pandey is a Brahmin while Krishna Raj hails from backward Pasi caste.

Pasis are dominant among the Dalit community in Uttar Pradesh and Krishna Raj's induction as a Union minister is essentially aimed at snatching votes from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati's support base.

Among an estimated 21 per cent Dalits, Pasis form about 15 per cent of the deprived sub-caste and are influential in crucial pockets for the ensuing assembly polls.

Uttar Pradesh, which sends the maximum -- 80 -- members to the Lok Sabha, is slated to go for the assembly elections early next year.

The BJP, which during the height of Ramjanmabhoomi movement had attained maximum popularity in the state, is, however, out of power in Uttar Pradesh for the past 15 years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has five cabinet rank ministers from Uttar Pradesh, including Rajnath Singh (Home), Kalraj Mishra (Small and Medium Enterprises), Maneka Gandhi (Women and Child Development), and Uma Bharti (Water Resources).

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is also now a member of the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh.

Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel's induction is aimed at strengthening the BJP's hold in eastern Uttar Pradesh which also includes Prime Minister Modi's parliamentary constituency.

There are seven ministers of state from Uttar Pradesh -- Gen (Retd) V.K. Singh (External Affairs), Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (Minority Affairs), Mahesh Sharma (Tourism), Sanjeev Balyan (Agriculture), Niranjan Jyoti (Food Processing Industry), Manoj Sinha (Railways) and Santosh Gangwar (Textiles).

However, in Tuesday's reshuffle, Agra MP Ram Shankar Katheria (Minister of State for HRD) has been shown the door.

Political observers say by dropping Katheria, who has been vocal about the hardcore Hindutva agenda including saffronisation of education, the Prime Minister and BJP leadership have tried to give a message that such hawkish views would not be entertained by the government.

On June 19, Katheria had sparked off a major row when he said in Lucknow "if saffronisation of education was good for the country, it would happen".

Among the ministers from Uttar Pradesh, Rajnath Singh and Gen V.K Singh are Thakurs, Kalraj Mishra and Mahesh Sharma are Brahmins; Uma Bharti is from the Lodh community and MP from Jhansi, and Santosh Gangwar is a Kurmi from the Ganga plains.

Minister of State for Railways Sinha is from Ghazipur, also in eastern Uttar Pradesh, and hails from politically influential Bhumihar caste.

MoS Food Processing Niranjan Jyoti hails from Mallah caste while MoS Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan is a Jat.


IANS

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