The importance of being Keshav Prasad Maurya in BJP

Party banks on him for OBC support.

Updated - January 19, 2022 08:59 pm IST

Published - January 18, 2022 08:53 pm IST - LUCKNOW

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. File

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. File

A decade after he tasted his first electoral success, BJP leader and incumbent Deputy Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Keshav Prasad Maurya is set to return to his native Sirathu to contest the upcoming Assembly election.

The constituency, located in Kaushambi, a backward district adjoining Prayagraj, was among the 325 seats that the BJP alliance won in 2017. Sitting MLA Sheetla Prasad “Pappu Patel,” had to be dropped to accommodate Mr. Maurya, whose relevance as the OBC face of the BJP government has been suddenly underlined by the recent rebellion of several OBC leaders including Swami Prasad Maurya and Dara Singh Chauhan, as the saffron party tries to keep its social calculus intact.


On January 16, Mr. Patel, who has credited Mr. Maurya for his first win in the last election, paid the latter a visit in Lucknow as the two put up a show of unity.

“I assured him and all workers that I will personally ensure that there is no shortcoming in according due honour to MLA Sheetla Prasad-ji,” said Mr. Maurya, thanking Mr. Patel for his “dedication” and “spirit of service” towards the party.

While they share the same community name, Mr. Keshav Maurya is the RSS-BJP’s home-grown Maurya face, groomed in Hindutva as part of the party’s OBC project to appeal to non-Yadav backward class communities, in sharp contrast to rebel MLA Swami Prasad Maurya, who identifies as an Ambedkarite and has spent most of his political life in the BSP and socialist parties, often at loggerheads with Brahminical ideas.


In the Modi mould

Born in 1969, Mr. Keshav Maurya studied Hindi literature at the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in Allahabad. He says he sold tea and newspapers during his childhood, details the BJP flaunts to liken him to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a backward caste leader of humble origins. On his Lok Sabha profile — he was MP from 2014-2017 — Mr. Maurya says: “Got inspiration for doing social service as well as education during childhood while selling tea.”

Mr. Maurya has been associated with the RSS and its sister organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) from an early age. Starting off as a baal swamyamsevak he went to hold the post of nagar karyawah of the RSS and prant sanghthan mantri in the VHP. While being active in the gauraksha movements, he also participated in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Within the BJP, he has held the posts of regional (Kashi) coordinator and president of the backward cell and kisan morcha (farmers’ front).


Months before the 2017 election, the BJP appointed Mr. Maurya, then an MP from Phulpur, as the State president as it pushed the narrative of uniting the rest of the backward castes against the Yadavs, the largest backward caste in U.P. at around 19.5% of the OBC population.

Mr. Maurya’s caste group, spread across the State and known by different names like Maurya, Morao, Kushwaha, Sakhya, Koeri, Kachhi, and Saini, is together estimated to account for around 8.5 % of the State’s OBC population. They are traditionally involved in horticulture.

Mr. Maurya’s electoral career started with two consecutive defeats from the Allahabad West seat. But in 2012, he won from Sirathu. He was then fielded as the Lok Sabha candidate from Phulpur in 2014. Riding on the popularity of Mr. Modi, he secured over 52% votes from the erstwhile Nehru-Gandhi bastion. This was the first time the BJP won the seat.

Sudden demotion

Though the BJP contested the 2017 election without a declared CM face, Mr. Keshav Maurya was seen by his supporters as the person likely to occupy the post if the party came to power. However, after the BJP registered a majority, its central leadership nominated Yogi Adityanath, a Kshatriya by caste, as the CM. To strike a balance in the caste equation, the BJP appointed Mr. Keshav Maurya as Deputy CM along with Dinesh Sharma, the Brahmin mayor of Lucknow.

The Opposition, in particular the Samajwadi Party (SP), has used this sidelining to target the BJP and question its commitment towards the backward castes.

SP president Akhilesh Yadav often mocks Mr. Maurya to drive home the narrative that the BJP used OBC votes to come to power on anti-Yadav sentiment but was not willing to elevate a leader from the community to the top seat. Most recently on January 15, Mr. Yadav referred to Mr. Maurya as “stool-wale Deputy CM [one denied a chair].”

The stage for an uneasy relationship between Mr. Maurya and Mr. Adityanath was set early on in 2017 when Mr. Maurya was asked to shift out of the fifth floor of the ‘Annexe’ building of the State secretariat —— the power centre of the government. More recently, rumour mills got working again after Mr. Maurya was issued a notice by a local court for allegedly using fake educational degrees to contest elections. The court in September last year, however, rejected the petition which sought a criminal case against him.

Mr. Maurya too, has on many occasions provided fodder to the theories of alleged differences of opinion within the State BJP regarding the leadership of Mr Adityanath by stating that the central leadership would decide the CM face in 2022.

His reluctance to name Mr. Adityanath as CM face has been echoed by the now rebel Swami Prasad Maurya.

Hard Hindutva line

Within the BJP, Mr. Keshav Maurya has matched Mr. Adityanath in provocative, and veiled statements of communal nature and in espousing the Hindutva line. In one such typical statement recently, he alleged that people wearing lungis and netted skull caps [referring to the stereotypical attire of the minority community] used to intimidate and scare traders in the State before the BJP came to power in 2017.

And after the departure of OBC leaders Swami Prasad and Dara Chauhan, it was Mr. Keshav Maurya who attempted to douse the rebellion and not Mr. Adityanath. He appealed to Mr. Swami Prasad to reconsider his decision and hold talks.

However, in response, the latter reminded him of his perceived stature: “First take a look at your own condition,” the OBC stalwart said, referring again to Mr Keshav Maurya’s marginalised position in the power structure.

In his introductory speech while joining the SP, too, on January 14, Mr. Swami Prasad cited Mr. Keshav Maurya to accuse the BJP of hoodwinking the backward castes for their votes.

“They spread this perception that either Keshav Prasad Maurya or Swami Prasad Maurya would be CM,” he said. “The Dalits and Backward castes helped form the government but the 5% forward caste people will get the cream of the power,” Mr. Swami Prasad said.

An undeterred Mr. Keshav Prasad also reached out to Mr. Chauhan, referring to him as “elder brother.” When a member of the family strays, it is bound to hurt, the Deputy CM said, while warning the rebels against jumping into a “sinking boat,” meaning the SP.

In damage control over growing speculation of differences between Mr. Keshav Prasad and Mr. Adityanath, the latter along with senior RSS leaders had called upon his deputy in June 2021, allegedly to bless Mr. Maurya’s newly-wed son and daughter-in-law.

Faced with questions of his relationship with Mr. Adityanath, who has been publicly endorsed as the CM face by none other than by Prime Minister Modi himself, Mr. Keshav Maurya recently told a news channel that “no force in the world can break their strong” relationship.

Mr. Keshav Maurya’s return to Sirathu would definitely help the BJP galvanise its supporters in the region as it tries to defend a big lead. Will 2022 also be the year he is finally elevated to the top post with the BJP’s return to power?

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