Former Union Minister Ram Shankar Katheria, who has stirred controversies in the past with his remarks, is likely to be the Bharatiya Janata Party’s next Uttar Pradesh chief, informed sources said. Sources in the BJP told IANS that Katheria’s name is learnt to have been finalised after consultations with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the party. They said that RSS General Secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi and Joint General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale held discussions with BJP’s Uttar Pradesh in-charge Om Mathur on the new BJP state chief, and Katheria’s name was later suggested to BJP chief Amit Shah. Katheria is a Dalit from Braj area of western Uttar Pradesh and would fit well in caste equations, party sources said.
Asked about appointment of the new UP BJP chief, a top BJP leader said: “It will be decided soon.” Sources said the name of the new BJP state chief could be announced as part of wider reshuffle in the party in line with the party’s “one person, one position” principle. Party secretaries Shrikant Sharma and Siddharth Nath Singh are now ministers in the Uttar Pradesh government as is Dara Singh Chauhan, who headed the party’s OBC (Other Backward Castes) morcha. Dinesh Sharma continues to be national vice-president of the party besides being Deputy Chief Minister in the Yogi Adityanath government.
The reshuffle in the party could be linked to possible expansion of the Union Cabinet as former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is now Chief Minister of Goa. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is holding additional charge of the Defence Ministry. Keshav Prasad Maurya, another Deputy Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh, continues to be the chief of the party in the state. The BJP scored a handsome win in the state in the recent assembly polls and party leaders have said that their target now is the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP is keen on taking various communities along and the new appointments are expected to reflect the party’s attempts to strike a balance in terms of caste representation. While Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath is a Rajput, Dinesh Sharma a Brahmin and Maurya an OBC face of the party. Also, while Yogi Adiyanath is from eastern Uttar Pradesh, both Sharma and Maurya are from central part of the state.
Sources said that the party is keen to appoint a Dalit leader at a senior position in the organisation after formation of government in the state. Katheria was dropped from the union council of ministers in July last year after a string of controversial remarks. Addressing a gathering at Lucknow University, Katheria had said there would be “saffronisation of education and the country”.
“Whatever is good for the country will be done, be it saffronisation or Sanghwaad (propagation of RSS ideology),” he had said. Katheria had also made controversial remarks after murder of a VHP worker in Agra last year. He had subsequently clarified on his comments. After being dropped from the ministry, Katheria had told IANS that the party will enlist his services in organisational affairs. Katheria worked as a pracharak of the RSS in Agra for 13 years and has written books on Dalit issues. Katheria had also earlier been a national general secretary of the BJP.