Eyeing OBC cadre, BJP appoints Swatantra Dev as UP BJP chief ahead of bypolls
Lucknow, July 16: Ahead of the bypolls to 12 assembly seats, the BJP on Tuesday appointed OBC leader and UP Cabinet minister Swatantra Dev Singh as the new state party chief.
Belonging to the influential backward Kurmi caste, 55-year-old Singh replaces Mahendra Nath Pandey, a Brahmin leader, who moved to the Centre on his re-election to the Lok Sabha from Chandauli.
Sticking to its one man, one post policy, the BJP changed the UP party chief as Pandey was inducted into the Union ministry.
Since the upcoming assembly bypolls will be the first major test for the BJP after the Lok Sabha win, Singh has his task cut out for him.
Singh's appointment is seen as part of the BJP's effort to consolidate its support among the Other Backward Classes, who strongly backed it in the last assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
Singh made his presence felt during the Lok Sabha elections as party affairs in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP bagged 28 out of 29 Lok Sabha seats.
"The task was indeed challenging as the BJP had lost the assembly elections to the Congress. To boost the morale of party workers and ensure a positive result was a tough task," UP BJP leader Rakesh Tripathi said.
"His efforts paid rich dividends as Congress bigwigs such as Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia had to taste defeat," he added.
Another UP BJP leader said Singh effectively tackled internal bickering in the MP unit of the party, resulting in a massive victory in the Parliamentary polls.
Currently, Singh is a member of the UP Legislative Council and holds the portfolio of the Minister of State (independent charge) for Transport.
Singh had joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1986 and then held various posts in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha.
He also held various posts in the BJP from 2004 to 2014.
The assembly constituencies where the bypolls will be held are Manikpur, Iglas (SC), Zaidpur (SC), Gangoh, Balha (SC), Rampur, Jalalpur, Pratapgarh, Lucknow Cantonment, Govindnagar, Tundla (SC) and Hamirpur.
The bypolls to 11 assembly seats will be held as sitting MLAs were elected to the Lok Sabha while in Hamirpur, the vacancy was caused as BJP MLA Ashok Kumar Singh Chandel was disqualified following conviction in a murder case.