Rajat Sharma

Agenda ‘24: Key to selection of Yogi’s Ministers

rajat-sirThe imprint of a strategy to win the 2024 Lok Sabha elections is clearly visible in the new government led by Yogi Adityanath, which was sworn in at a mega event on Friday at Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana stadium in Lucknow.

The swearing-in ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his key ministers Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and others, most of the BJP chief ministers from different states, religious gurus, industrialists and thousands of BJP supporters who had assembled there. Across the state, there were jubilations and special religious rites to mark the occasion of a chief minister of UP being sworn in for a second consecutive term, a first in the history of Uttar Pradesh.

All eyes were on the induction of 32 freshers as ministers and there were animated discussions about the 26 ministers who were dropped this time. A new deputy chief minister Brajesh Pathak, formerly in the BSP, was sworn in replacing Dinesh Sharma, both representing the Brahmin community. Keshav Prasad Maurya, the OBC face of BJP in UP, was retained as deputy chief minister despite his defeat in the elections. Among the ministers dropped were Ashutosh Tandon, Shrikant Sharma, Siddharth Nath Singh, eight times MLA Satish Mahana, BJP’s Muslim face Mohsin Raza, and several others.

There is a perfect balance in Yogi’s team with 21 ministers from upper castes and 20 from other backward castes. Eight Dalits, one each from scheduled tribe, Muslim and Sikh communities made up the rest. Among the upper caste ministers are seven Brahmins, six Thakurs, two Bhumihars, five Vaishyas and one Kayasth. Among the 20 OBC ministers were four Kurmis, three Jats, two Nishads, two Lodhs and one each from Saini, Gurjar, Teli, Maurya, Gadariya, Kumhar, Yadav, Rajbhar and Kashyap castes.

Both the BJP allies Nishad Party and Apna Dal have been given representation in the new ministry. A former ABVP student leader Danish Azad Ansari is the lone Muslim minister, who has replaced Mohsin Raza. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trusted former bureaucrat from Gujarat IAS cadre, A K Sharma has been made cabinet minister, while former IPS officer and ex-Kanpur police chief Aseem Arun, who took VRS to contest the elections, has been made MoS with independent charge.

The swearing-in event was organized to give the message that it was more of a semi-final victory jubilation in the runup to the finals that is going to take place in 2024 during the crucial Lok Sabha elections.

The political impact of this mega event can be gauged from the line-up of all senior BJP leaders who took the stage as Yogi read out his affirmation of oath. Party strategists expect the immediate impact of this event to take place in states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh that will go to assembly polls.

In brief, it can be termed as the beginning of preparations for 2024 LS elections. Yogi, of course, was the hero of the day, given the major consecutive success that the party has scored in UP.

Modi had given a free hand to Yogi to plan his team and this event. In the backdrop of the huge dais was written ‘Shapath, Shapath, Shapath: Rashtravad ki, sushashan ki, suraksha ki, vikas ki’ (Promise, promise, promise for Nationalism, Good Governance, Security and Development). These words, which Modi and Yogi had effectively used during their UP campaign, will now be the template on which the 2024 poll agenda, roadmap and objective, will be scripted.

This roadmap is clearly reflected in the choice of ministers. Keshav Prasad Maurya lost his election from Sirathu, but was inducted again as deputy CM because it was he who led the mobilization of backward castes, both in the 2017 and this year’s assembly polls. In 2017, he was the state BJP chief who worked tirelessly to bring his party to power. The party high command, therefore, decided that Maurya should continue in Number Two position after Yogi.

By inducting Brajesh Pathak, a Brahmin leader, as deputy CM, the party wants to give some messages: One, that the leadership will give preference to young leaders, Two, it will keep regional and caste equations in mind by replacing a Brahmin with another Brahmin, Three, preference will be given to talent and commitment, and it does not matter who is coming from which party. Brajesh Pathak was a vocal BSP MP in Parliament several years ago, when he left Mayawati’s camp and joined the BJP to become minister in Yogi’s cabinet. He had proven his administrative competence.

Modi’s stamp of approval can be clearly seen in the line-up of Yogi’s new cabinet. Regional and caste equations have been taken care of, and there is, of course a good combination of fresh and old, experienced faces. The chemistry between Modi and Yogi was evident during the 75-minute oath ceremony, when both of them were involved in long discussions, sitting next to each other. The body chemistry between the two clearly depicts the contours of the BJP roadmap for the coming Lok Sabha polls.

It was Modi’s plan to convert the celebration of Yogi’s historic success by organizing a mega ceremony in a stadium packed with party workers, instead of a bland ceremony inside a Raj Bhavan hall attended by politicians and bureaucrats.

Modi knows that this electoral victory in UP was the result of tireless and strenuous efforts by his party workers. He, therefore, decided that party workers must be invited to become participants in the jubilation at the oath ceremony. The aim was to inject more enthusiasm among them so that they could be effectively mobilized two years later during the LS polls. This is typical Modi style.

Winning elections was not the sole criterion for selecting ministers. Strenuous work fone for the party was also taken as a major criterion while preparing the list. For example, Dayashankar Singh used to work for the party and was made minister for the first time. His wife Swati Singh, who was minister last time, was denied ticket, and this time Dayashankar Singh was pitted against top Samajwadi Party leader Narad Rai in Ballia town. Singh was rewarded for defeating the SP leader.

The challenge that both Modi and Yogi face now is: how to achieve a bigger electoral victory from UP in 2024 LS polls. Yogi knows that he would have to break the past record of success from UP in the Lok Sabha elections. Already, the Congress has been nearly decimated in UP, and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party is gasping for survival.

The toughest challenge in UP will be posed by Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, which has enhanced its vote share and number of seats this time from UP. The BJP leadership realizes this. Whether it is the formation of a cabinet, or charting out a roadmap for the next two years, the main objective will be: how to win the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

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