Modi Cabinet reshuffle 2016: Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit two birds with one stone in Tuesday’s ministry expansion, as far as Uttar Pradesh is concerned.
On the one hand by dropping Minister of State for HRD Ram Shanker Katheria, he delivered a terse message to the fringe in the ruling party not to breach the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ of discipline, on the other he also balanced the complex caste metric of Uttar Pradesh.
By inducting Mahendra Nath Pandey, a senior leader from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Lok Sabha member, and Anupriya Patel, leader of the now-divided Apna Dal, the Prime Minister struck a delicate balance in giving crucial Patels and Brahmins a strategic hug.
A senior party leader confided that dropping of Katheria from the union council of ministers was a “clear cut” indication by Modi to party leaders and workers not to be overzealous about issues like aggressive Hinduism.
Inducting Anupriya Patel is also seen as a message that the party was ready to walk the extra mile with alliance partners who have stood by the BJP in testing times. The Apna Dal has two MPs from the state.
While the party is badly fractured in claiming the legacy of its founder Sone Lal Patel, Anupriya is seen as a popular face in the party as against her mother and younger sister who are in the opposite camp within the Apna Dal.
By not including Yogi Adityanath, the Gorakhpur MP in his government, contrary to widely aired rumours, Modi has also given a message that acerbic and caustic remarks do not go down well with his scheme of things in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
“While Ram Mandir and other issues are close to our heart, they certainly cannot be carried forward as issues fanning acrimony in the society,” a former Uttar Pradesh minister and senior BJP leader from eastern UP told IANS on condition of anonymity, justifying the non-inclusion of Yogi in the ministry expansion.
Sources also said that the Prime Minister was not happy with his cabinet colleague Kalraj Mishra but decided not to axe him at the last moment keeping in mind his stature in the party — he still is the longest-serving state unit president and enjoys a good rapport with the party leaders in the state.
Politically crucial Uttar Pradesh goes to polls early next year and the party wants to end its ‘vanvaas’ (exile) of 14 years and return to power. It is faced with competition from ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The Congress too is trying to register its presence in the state and has roped in election strategist Prashant Kishore to help it along.