Five new state unit presidents named by the BJP Friday have one thing in common — all have served the RSS for more than a decade. Backward class identity also seems to have played a role in helping party chief Amit Shah whittle down the list of probables. Of the five, two are from the OBC while a third is a Dalit.
Naming Keshav Prasad Maurya as chief of the BJP in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls next year, BJP general secretary Arun Singh said: “He is an MP and worked as a wholetimer of the Sangh for 14 years. He actively participated in organisation-related movements like cow protection and the Ram Janmabhoomi.”
Formerly with the VHP, Maurya is an OBC leader and BJP MP from Phulpur, the constituency once represented by Jawaharlal Nehru. OBC leaders Dharampal Singh and Swatantra Dev were also in the running for the top party job in the state but Maurya’s activism, party sources said, tipped the scale in his favour.
“He (Maurya) comes from a backward community and a very poor family. He sold newspapers and tea for a living. He is the son of a farmer. He wrested Phulpur for the BJP for the first time. He will be able to take along everyone,” Singh said.
The BJP appointed Union Minister and Dalit leader Vijay Sampla as head of its Punjab unit, Shimoga MP and former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, MLA and OBC leader K Laxman in Telangana and former MP Tapir Gao in Arunachal Pradesh.
All five, a BJP leader said, have served the RSS for many years. “Although these leaders, except Yeddyurappa, are not so well known, they have worked for the Sangh with dedication and commitment. This will be to their advantage in organisational activities since the BJP and RSS will be coordinating in these states,” the leader said.
Last year, Shah had appointed Kummanam Rajasekharan, considered a hardline Hindu leader in Kerala, as the state unit chief. In West Bengal, Dilip Ghosh, a leader with an RSS background, was given charge of the party unit.
In Punjab, which also goes to polls next year, Sampla’s appointment is expected to woo the Dalits. The state has the highest percentage of Dalits in the country — 32 per cent of its total population.
BJP sources said Yeddyurappa’s appointment, despite the controversies he is embroiled in, suggests that Shah wants to use his organisational skills and experience to return the party to power in Karnataka when it goes to polls in 2018. A Lingayat leader and a staunch RSS man, he led the BJP to a historic victory in the state in 2008 and became Chief Minister.
Battling corruption charges, he quit the BJP in 2011 and floated the Karnataka Janata Paksha before the 2013 assembly polls. He returned to the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Asked about the charges against Yeddyurappa, Singh said: “These are politically motivated.”