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With 2019 Lok Sabha election less than 20 months away, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi would seek re-election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is already restructuring its organisation for maximising the electoral benefits.
The Cabinet reshuffle, apart from effecting a broad-based organisational rejig by the ruling BJP, is a step in the same direction.
Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for 80 seats or 15 per cent of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats, is central to, and understandably, to the party’s poll strategy to repeating the 2014’s stellar poll performance, when BJP and allies had won 282 seats, including 73 in UP.
The nomination of Ram Nath Kovind, who hails from Kanpur, as the presidential candidate of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and his subsequent elevation to the country’s highest office had galvanised the importance of UP in shaping the party’s future poll strategy.
Now, the appointment of party’s Member of Parliament (MP) from Chandauli Mahendra Nath Pandey as the UP president is another masterstroke to placate the influential Brahmin community.
Pandey, who is a silent party worker and keeps a low profile, has already resigned as the union minister of state for human resource development (HRD) to take up the new and challenging assignment in UP. He succeeds Keshav Prasad Maurya, the sitting MP from Phoolpur (Allahabad) constituency, who was appointed as UP BJP president before the 2017 UP poll to consolidate the party’s backward castes votes.
Maurya had himself replaced a Brahmin, Laxmikant Bajpai, as the UP BJP president. The Brahmin community, which roughly constitutes 10 per cent of the state’s population but wields considerable influence over their comparative higher socioeconomic status, had been feeling side lined especially after Yogi Adityanath, a Kshatriya, was anointed as the chief minister.
Now, Pandey’s elevation as the UP BJP chief is purported to balance the caste conundrum of UP, which comprises the most intricate matrix of castes and communities.
In the past, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had combined Brahmins with its core Dalit vote bank to foment a winning formula that paid rich dividend in the 2007 UP poll.
However, the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha poll and 2017 UP poll had weaned away a section of the Dalits from BSP, apart from the non-Yadav communities from the Samajwadi Party (SP).
Now, the BJP is attempting to keep its core Brahmin vote bank intact in UP as poll gets nearer and the Opposition is looking to offer a joint front to counter the party.