Keshav Prasad Maurya: ‘Gareebi, Sangh aur OBC’

Updated - September 08, 2016 07:38 pm IST

Published - April 08, 2016 08:13 pm IST - LUCKNOW

Keshav Prasad Maurya’s nomination as the new BJP chief in Uttar Pradesh is expected to provide a fillip to the party’s hardline Hindutva agenda and boost outreach among the non-Yadav backward castes in the State, which goes to the polls in less than a year.

However, his promotion also comes with a liability, as Mr. Maurya, currently a Lok Sabha MP from Phulpur, faces charges in as many as 10 criminal cases.

While he is the prime accused in a murder case, he is also booked for promoting enmity between groups, criminal intimidation, deliberate acts of hurting religious sentiment, criminal conspiracy and rioting. The BJP, however, downplayed Mr. Maurya’s criminal background saying the cases were “politically motivated” and lodged during his activism and participation in andolans . “Has any case been lodged against him after he became MP?” asked BJP spokesperson Chandramohan.

Born in 1969, in Sirathu in Kausambhi district, adjoining Allahabad, Mr. Maurya went on to study Hindi Literature at the Hindu Sahitya Sammelan in Allahabad. Hailing from a humble farming family, Mr. Maurya sold tea and newspapers during his childhood, a detail that the BJP hopes to flaunt further.

The factors what went in his favour, party sources say, is his humble beginning, deep association with the Sangh and his OBC background. “ Gareebi, Sangh aur OBC , the trajectory is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said a BJP leader, quite pleased by the likeness.

At 47, Mr. Maurya is relatively young and his full-timer karyakarta background is expected to boost the morale of the BJP-RSS cadre. His RSS upbringing will also provide “energy and help in connecting RSS cadre,” a senior BJP leader said. Since Mr. Maurya is an MP and “won’t have the burden of fighting elections in 2017, he will devote his time entirely to focus on winning the elections,” Mr. Chandramohan said, hailing him as an “aggressive leader.”

Though he keeps a low-profile and is not popular outside the Kausambhi-Allahabad-Varanasi belt, Mr. Maurya’s pro-Hindutva image and his promotion could be a sign of things to come. He has been associated with the RSS and the VHP-Bajrang Dal from an early age, holding the posts of Nagar Karyawah and VHP Pranth Sanghathan Mantri, among others. While being active in the gauraksha (cow-protection) movements, he also participated in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. In the BJP, Mr. Maurya has been the regional (Kashi) coordinator of the backward class cell and the BJP Kisan Morcha.

His political career started out with defeats as he lost two consecutive Assembly elections, 2002 and 2007, but riding on a Modi wave secured the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat in 2014 with a thumping five lakh votes and over 52 per cent votes from the erstwhile Nehru-Gandhi bastion.

Mr. Maurya is a Khushwaha. Depending on the region, Mauryas can have different surnames — while Khushwahas and Binds are mostly concentrated in east UP, in west UP they are known as Sakhya and Saini. “The Mauryas are found across the State, from Saharanpur to Chandauli. We hope to have a vote deposit in almost every constituency. Besides, though we have many OBC leaders we lacked a leader from the Maurya caste,” a BJP leader said.

The BJP’s selection of a Maurya is also in line with its strategy to build its resource among the so-called intermediate OBCs and MBCs, which bear no loyalty to any of the top parties and could be pulled in. Providing them leadership, the BJP thinks, will help it to weaken the BSP and the SP.

The selection of a backward caste person as State chief could also pave the way for an upper caste, a Brahmin, most likely, to be nominated as the party’s chief ministerial candidate, sources said. The outgoing BJP state president and Meerut MLA Laxmikant Bajpai is a Brahmin.

Attacking the BJP, the Congress said by nominating a “tainted” person with a criminal background, the party’s true nature was exposed. The BJP could not find a single face with a clean image to represent the state, the Congress said.

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