Cabinet reshuffle | Inductions from U.P. reflect BJP’s focus on caste equations ahead of 2022 polls

Focus on targeted constituencies of non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalits

Updated - September 27, 2023 10:25 am IST

Published - July 07, 2021 10:33 pm IST - LUCKNOW

Anupriya Patel with PM Modi

Anupriya Patel with PM Modi

Seven leaders from Uttar Pradesh were inducted into the Union Cabinet reflecting the ruling BJP’s focus on its targeted constituencies of non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalits ahead of the 2022 Assembly polls.

The seven who took oath as Ministers of State included Anupriya Patel, president of the Apna Dal (Sonelal), a key ally.

Ms. Patel, 40, is an MP from Mirzapur, adjoining Varanasi, and hails from the Kurmi backward caste, one of the dominant non-Yadav OBCs traditionally associated with farming.

Apna Dal has nine MLAs and one MLC, her husband Ashish Patel. Mr. Patel was also a Minister in the first Modi government.

PM Modi’s Cabinet reshuffle updates

Her induction, however, did not go well with the BJP’s second ally Nishad Party, which has for weeks been demanding a promotion in either the State government or the Central government. The Nishad Party claims to be the voice of the riverine OBC castes.

If Ms. Patel can be inducted, then why not the Nishad Party which has influence among the fishing communities, who are influential in 160 Assembly seats in UP, its president Sanjay Nishad asked.

“Our people are already angry and it reflected in the recent panchayat polls result. Some infiltrators [in BJP] want Nishads to get enraged and the BJP’s boat to sink,” he told The Hindu .

“Our community will be compelled to come out on the streets again in a democratic way,” he said, adding that the negative reaction among the Nishads would prove to be a setback for the BJP in 2022.

Also read: Harsh Vardhan, Javadekar, Prasad resign as Union Ministers ahead of Cabinet reshuffle

The seven new Ministers reflected caste and regional necessities of the BJP, with the induction of a Brahmin from central-north U.P., two Kurmis from Purvanchal, one Lodh from Rohilkhand, one Kori from Bundelkhand, one Pasi from Awadh and one Dhangar from Braj.

Kaushal Kishor, a two-time MP from Mohanlaganj, heads the party SC/ST wing and is seen as its Pasi face. Pasis are the second largest Dalit community in UP after Jatavs and are numerically concentrated in Awadh and Purvanchal. Mr. Kishor is known for his ground activism for Dalits.

Also read: List of Ministers and their portfolios in Narendra Modi’s cabinet

While congratulating Mr. Kishor, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the MP has “always been active on issues of social justice”.

S.P.S Baghel, who belongs to the Gaderia-Dhangar community, traditionally associated with livestock breeding, won the reserved seat (SC) of Agra in Lok Sabha 2019.

Mr. Baghel, who has vast experience as a politician, served as a Minister in the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet for two years after winning from Tundla Assembly in 2017.

He had previously been a three-time Lok Sabha MP from SP and was sent to the Rajya Sabha by BSP.

Six-time Maharajganj MP Pankaj Chaudhary, a Kurmi, was also inducted to the union council of ministers.

Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma, a five-time MP from Jalaun, and Kori by caste, was the choice from the backward region of Bundelkhand.

BL Verma, a first-time Rajya Sabha member who belongs to the Lodh OBC caste, took oath as Minister of State. Ajay Mishra, MP from Kheri, was inducted at a time the dominant Brahmin community is seeking more representation in power.

Santosh Gangwar, veteran BJP leader from the Kurmi community and eight-time MP from Bareilly, resigned from the post of MoS Labour and Employment.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said the big change in the Cabinet was an admission by the BJP government that it has been a “failure in all sectors”.

“Not just [replace] the empty coaches, the need is to change the entire train. The BJP has lost the moral right to run the government,” he tweeted.

Om Prakash Rajbhar, former BJP ally who heads the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, said the reshuffle was a ‘betrayal’ of backward and most-backward castes like Nishad, Kevat, Rajbhar, Prajapati, Pal, Bind, Kashyap and Loniya.

“In the 2022 Vidhan Sabha election, we all neglected castes will unite and fight for our rights and form our government by defeating the BJP,” he said.

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